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 Opinion

Communities of Interest

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Solar Nova Scotia website
Climate Action Summit website.

Posted in Opinion

Old Ways

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

Oct 24 2019 (9)

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

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

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

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

“October 21, 2019, South Williamson.

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

“October 16, 2019, Arlington West

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

Check his tumbler site for more inspiration.

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

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


Steve Skafte. Go to steveskafte.tumblr.com1

Posted in Event Review, Opinion

Wearing the Land

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Posted in Book Review, Opinion


I have been in contact with Willy Hunter about his family memories of Paradise and the Born Again Barn. This relates to Raymond Hunter’s biography. The first two volumes take us up to 1968 when Raymond and Rona emigrated to Clarence, Nova Scotia.

bookCover_fantasylandMy interest was the relationship between the different religious and education movements in rural Nova Scotia. Willy brought to my attention the book Fantasyland by Kurt Andersen which describes the different movements in the United States over the last five hundred years.

“America was founded by wishful dreamers, magical thinkers, and true believers, by impresarios and their audiences, by hucksters and their suckers. Believe-whatever-you-want fantasy is deeply embedded in our DNA.”

“In Fantasyland, Andersen brilliantly connects the dots that define this condition, portrays its scale and scope, and offers a fresh, bracing explanation of how our American journey has deposited us here.”

Relevant to my own lifestyle, was the era of the ‘hippies’ and the ‘back to the land‘ movement.

bookCover_crystalSpiritThis week, there has been very little time or energy for reading. Picking apples in the orchard consumes both time and energy. I have fallen behind on my reading of George Woodcock’s story of George Orwell, The Crystal Spirit. Indeed, Orwell’s life in mid-twentieth century seems far removed and romanticized from the current state of world affairs.

In terms of ‘fantasy’ land, we need to understand how to change our use of the landscape. What can we do to improve the quality of the soil, under changing climate conditions? What crops should we grow? What does it mean to grow apples for brandy, hops for beer, cannabis for recreation? What are the real food alternatives under these changing conditions?

At the community level, we do not need to seek evangelical solutions but a rather inclusive town hall-style gathering where we solicit input from a wide range of citizens. This is a different style of democratic process than we see being played out in the current election.

Meanwhile, we still have a few more apple bins to fill this week. It is so refreshing to be high in the tops of the tree and see the size and quality of the fruit, with so little evidence of insect damage. Reminding us, once again, of the horticultural efforts by Raymond Hunter at Super Organic Produce in this part of Annapolis County. That is not a ‘fantasy’.


Willy Hunter for his book recommendation. To Jaki at the Lawrencetown library for tracking down various books. Heather for putting her shoulder to the apple harvest. Edward for his graphic contribution.


Kurt Andersen. 2017. Fantasyland: How America went Haywire, a 500-year history. Random House.
George Woodcock. 1966. The Crystal Spirit: A study of George Orwell. Little Brown (download PDF).

Posted in Art, Nature, Opinion

Behold Cape Breton

Anne and I recently spent a week travelling through picturesque Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, taking in the popular sites, such as the Fortress of Louisbourg, and discovering some underrated nooks and crannies.

Fish Hatchery on the  Northeast Margaree River, watercolour by Edward Wedler

We couldn’t help but notice the various ways people move through and note the landscape. As artists, we spent several hours documenting specific sites en plein air — Anne with her oils and me with my watercolours. Spending time at each location lets us absorb the landscape with all our senses. Our recall for detail is heightened.

20190919_110952_2While painting Pillar Rock from Presqu-île, near the southern part of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, we noted dozens of visitors come for a few minutes to snap photos then move on. Did they see the otters swim the nearby pond? Did they note how the sun lit up the rocky shoreline as it rose above Jerome mountain? Did they hear the high-pitched piping notes of the eagle?

appleMapVehicleAt the other extreme, we were greeted several times by the “Apple Map vehicle” taking rapid-fire snapshots of the landscape as it motored throughout the Cape Breton Highlands. We were surprised to see it in the small northern community of White Point. It had a different purpose — to engorge its databanks with a future, retrievable, online, photo and map record of the region.

Whether painting, hiking, photographing, video-recording or “apple-mapping” we all move through the landscape at different rates and with different pursuits in mind. How do you move through the landscape? How much do you absorb from your travels? What record do you log and keep?

Anne Wedler for being my supportive, painting buddy. All those Cape Breton visitors we met attached to their iPhones and smartphones.



Posted in Opinion

Making the Transition

September is hurricane month in Nova Scotia.

This week, after Hurricane Dorian, the Municipality of Annapolis County passed a Declaration of Climate Emergency (see Annapolis Spectator, September 23rd).

maher_apple_2September is also the month when I need to be prepared for harvesting our organic apples. This means ensuring that the tractor is in good working order. Over the Winter, it developed a flat rear tire. This has led to the purchase of a new rim ($500) and its installation by High Country Tire. Fortunately, I had access to Neil Bent, who was able to mentor me in the challenges of bush hogging the upper field, as well as the forklift to move the Apple bins from the barn to the orchard. Each year, it seems harder to remember all the subtleties, adjusting the various levers and their proper settings.

thinkingTractorThe capacity to move seamlessly from abstract thinking to practical task thinking is something that is needed by all elements of society. To address the climate emergency, we need to learn the details of new technologies, as well as to think differently with existing technologies. The new technologies include solar and wind energy. Existing technologies include different forms of communication. We also need a different approach to the concept of community.

We need a different relationship with our landscape.

The landscape is not a resource for exploitation. Rather, it is an integral, inseparable component of our identity. It should be appreciated, fostered and shared with others, who may stop by, if only for a few weeks or months.

We need, too, a much more inclusive approach to community.

We share our lives with two retired sled dogs. They were born in Nunavut. They spent part of their working life in Northern BC. Today, they enjoy the sights and sounds of the rural Nova Scotia landscape.


This week, I have been in touch with the Hunter family about the apple brandy. One Raymond Hunter quotation which surfaced. “Bloom where you are planted.”


Neil Bent for his patience and knowledge of farm equipment. Timothy Habinski and Gregory Heming for their good work on Annapolis County Municipal Council, leading to the Declaration. Rocky and Debby Hebb for their memories of Raymond Hunter, and the Born Again Barn in Paradise. Heather Stewart for her enthusiasm for alternative technologies, and interest in the Extinction Rebellion movement. Edward Wedler for his graphics.


Annapolis Spectator. Article by Larry Powell.September 23, 2019.

Posted in Opinion

Dorian Lessons

Hurricane Dorian hit Nova Scotia on Saturday night. Sunday, driving home from New Glasgow, we listened to Writers and Company on the CBC. It was an interview with Dorian Lynskey, author of The Ministry of Truth: the Biography of George Orwell’s 1984. This connected, for me, with Margaret Atwood’s new release The Testaments plus I received a notice from Lawrencetown Library that George Woodcock’s book on George Orwell had arrived through the services of inter-library loan; The Crystal Spirit: a study of George Orwell.

En route, we noticed a few more municipal slogans. For Pictou County Forward Together and also the town of New Glasgow Flourish.


Towards the end of this week, there are a number of realizations with Hurricane Dorian.

a) the sense of vulnerability when infrastructure fails.
b) the irony of demand for gas, whether for cars or generators and the climate change message.
c) the density of overhead lines in a province that still has a significant number of trees. Some of which, poplar, have a tendency to snap easily.
d)as a province, where do we stand on solar energy?
e) what about putting lines underground?
f) given the inter-dependency of the telephone system, the Internet system and the electricity system is there a better infrastructure/technology solution?
g) do we have the appropriate ‘community information’ easily accessible?

As we head into a federal election, and subsequently provincial and municipal, elections, are there connections to the writing of both Orwell and Atwood?


From Hurricane Dorian, it is apparent that to Flourish we need to Move Forward Together. Interestingly  Forward Together is also the slogan of the Federal Green Party. Thanks to Heather for her observations and our conversations. Edward added the graphics.


Margaret Atwood. 2019. The Testaments. McClelland & Stewart.
Dorian Lynskey. 2019. The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell’s 1984. Doubleday.
George Woodcock.1966. The Crystal Spirit: A Study of George Orwell. Little, Brown and Company.

Posted in Opinion

Municipal slogans etc.

sign_KingsCountyYesterday, I had to go to Kentville for a doctor’s appointment. On my way, I noticed the Kings’ County sign is ‘Orchards, vineyards and tides’ then, as one approaches Kentville on the Highway #101, the sign is ‘A breath of fresh air’.sign_Kentville

At the doctor’s office, we chatted about the fact that the town of Kentville is hosting a party for nine new doctors (including mine), with an invitation list of five hundred. Coming from Annapolis County, this was definitely, a breath of fresh air.


With time in hand, I visited the Shelf Life Used Books, I picked up a copy of The Nova Scotia Book of Fathers; a collection of short essays by twenty Nova Scotia writers about their father, including Lesley Choyce, Harry Thurston, Alexander Macleod, Joan Baxter and others.

The one that struck a chord was Alexander Macleod’s description of his father’s little house in Broad Cove, looking out over Margaree Island.

‘When he was a younger man, he built himself a little house, a separate connected place, where he could practise his craft without ever really leaving his other home behind’ p22.

As we prepare for the release of Hunter’s brandy, made from apples in our orchard, I am receiving a number of emails of photographs and memories of Raymond Hunter from his sons and family.

Meanwhile, Edward researched the ‘Naturally Connected‘ slogan from Richmond County. It seems that that may have been a community or private sign. The sign exists on Highway #105 between Sydney and the Causeway. However, it is not attributable to Richmond County.

If someone is driving that highway, please let us know which community owns the slogan.

This evening at the MacDonald Museum, the Valley Regional Enterprise Network (VREN) is hosting a public forum in Middleton. They are looking for citizen input ‘to create a brand for the entire Annapolis Valley region’.
Unfortunately, in The Reader, they had the wrong time. It was this morning at 9 am. Oh dear !

It’s an interesting scenario. Middleton is ‘the Heart of the Valley’ and yet neither the County of Annapolis nor the town of Annapolis Royal are members of the VREN. Meanwhile, Valley Waste municipal partners are reportedly suing Annapolis County.

Certainly, it is time for ‘a breath of fresh air’!

A further example can be found in The Grapevine (August 22 -September 5),
Both the Mayors of Kentville and Wolfville welcome students back to their communities. p3 and p15.


Edward for his research commitment. Anne Crossman for fact-checking.


Lesley Choyce and Julia Swan(Ed).2017. The Nova Scotia Book of Fathers. Pottersfield Press.

The Grapevine. Arts, Culture, Community. August 22 – September 5 2019.