Posted in Book Review, Video Review

Life Ahead

The Sea among the Rocks is a quotation from Evelyn Richardson, used as the title for Harry Thurston’s book of travels in Atlantic Canada.

“Though Morrill holds title to the Island of Bon Portage, who could sell or buy the sea among the rocks, the wind rippling the fields of grass, the moon’s lustrous path across the surging water, or the star-studded bowl of the night sky? They are without price, and priceless, and will be here for those who follow us. Then the work of our hands, those insignificant scratches on the face of the earth, may serve to remind others of our passing…”. p.255

I have just finished reading Thurston’s book. The writer has collected together a series of articles written between 1980-2000 in Atlantic Insight, Equinox, Harrowsmith and elsewhere. In all cases, they concern the use of the land and sea : farming, forestry, mining and fishing.

Examples include:

Prest’s Last Stand Mooseland, Nova Scotia
The Enemy Above Millstream, New Brunswick
The Fat of the Land Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia
North of Nain Cut Throat Island, Labrador

As we enter 2021, it would be worthwhile to revisit Murray Prest and the use of forests in Nova Scotia or the issue of aerial spraying (The Enemy Above).

Perhaps, is it time for Harry Thurston or the next generation of writers to document our relationship with the landscape; whether fishing, farming, forestry, mining in 2020?

This week, I received a notice from the province about an online survey to collect input directly from private woodland owners.


My blog title, Life Ahead, is taken from the new Netflix movie starring Sophia Loren. Highly recommend.


John forwarded the link to woodland owner survey. Heather shared the movie night. Edward added his artistic touch.


Harry Thurston, 2002, The Sea among the Rocks, Pottersfield Press.
Where my roots go deep: the collected writing of Evelyn Richardson, 1996, Nimbus.
The Life Ahead, 2020, Netflix, starring Sophia Loren.

Posted in Book Review, Video Review

Redefining Retirement

This weekend, we plan to send a care package to Iqaluit. It will include pairs of knitted socks, as well as a book illustrated by local artist, Geoff Butler “The Illustrated Ode to Labrador“.

The book was picked up months ago in Annapolis Royal. It tells the story of the Ode to Labrador. Besides the Art work, it contains lyrics by Harry Paddon and additional text by Robin McGrath.

I am sending it North for Andrew and the grandchildren to read. It brings back memories of my first field season in Labrador in 1964. I was based at the McGill Sub-Arctic Research Station in Schefferville, and developed a love for the Northern landscape.

Last Friday, we finished watching the BBC production of Victor Hugo, Les Miserables on Gem. While a gripping eight part series, it was hard to watch the turmoil of the French Revolution, as we endure the present COVID political uncertainties.

Same day, we had to pick up a book in Annapolis Royal. After enjoying the French Basin trail, dog walk with Siqsiq, we stopped for a morning coffee at Lola’s Café. This led to a brief stop at the Library. Here, I found an early Harry Thurston book (2002), “The Sea among the Rocks“. It is a collection of short pieces describing familiar places in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and other parts of Atlantic Canada. In most cases, he writes from an environmental perspective.

‘Thurston writes passionately about the region’s bounty, the environmental destruction and the attempts to protect what’s left of our natural heritage. He shows how these concerns for the environment are inseparable from the spheres of community and culture’.

On returning home, I found an email from the Retired Teachers Organization (RTO) on a five part workshop, facilitated by the Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre. These online sessions address the topic of ‘redefining retirement’.

My questions are simple.

‘What can I do in 2021, to guarantee that there will be a Centre of Geographic Sciences in Lawrencetown for my grandchildren, should they decide to follow my career path — that means, the opportunity to study Cartography, Geographic Information Science, Remote Sensing and Surveying, ten years from now?

Retirement from an educational institution does not mean retirement from one’s life time academic and research interests. Most post-secondary institutions understand this point. How about the Nova Scotia Community College?


We publish rural Nova Scotia. Check out Moose House Publications founded by Brenda Thompson in 2019.


Both Edward and Heather share many of the same interests. Friday evening, we had an excellent supper at The Station with Anne, Bill and Roger. Earlier, John shared his thoughts on the ‘state of the environment’.


Geoff Butler, 2016, The Illustrated Ode to Labrador, Breakwater Books.

Harry Thurston, 2002, The Sea among the Rocks: Travels in Atlantic Canada, Pottersfield Press.

Posted in Book Review, Video Review

Borealis and Back to the Land

After weeks of Netflix and CBC Gem, it was refreshing to rediscover National Film Board (NFB) documentaries. For those seeking to change society’s perception of our forests, I would recommend the film, Borealis.

It describes the intrinsic values of the Boreal forest, especially in these times of climate change. Made me wonder whether there should be a similar film made on the Acadian forest.

For dessert, we watched the NFB (1992) documentary on The Northern Lights.

This has been a particularly long weekend. I just hope the snow stays around for a cross-country ski tomorrow (Sunday).

Over the Christmas holiday, I had the chance to read Paul Colville’s memoir, “Back to the Land”. It was an early draft that describes the journey of Paul and Ruth from the United States to Mosher’s Corner on North Mountain, and life thereafter.

Google satellite View around Mosher’s Corner, Nova Scotia

Each chapter looks at a decade of living, as part of the rural economy in Nova Scotia. It is planned for publication in 2021 (publisher to be determined). I look forward to the final version. No pressure, Paul.

Time to shovel the snow, and put on the skis.


Just back from skiing. For the local reader, we parked at Lunn’s Mill. Skied through the Lawrencetown tree nursery to the Annapolis River. Along the river to Andrew’s property and up to our house. Turn round, and reverse the trip to Lunn’s Mill. Wish they were open on a Sunday, could do with a beer. Oh well, we have a growler of Brickyard Red at home.


Paul Colville, for the good times that go back to the Chimney Sweeping days. Heather for sharing the journey. Edward for his editorial insights.


National Film Board (NFB), 2020, Kevin McMahon, Borealis.
Explore how the plants and animals of Canada’s Boreal forest communicate and survive in this unique cinematic documentary’.

National Film Board (NFB), 1992, Alan Booth, The Northern Lights

Paul Colville, 2021, Back to the Land. Publisher, TBD.

Posted in Video Review

Community Mapping Update

(This blog has two links of interest: one from GoGeomatics and one from COGS).

In a recent issue of GoGeomatics magazine, there was an online interview with Alia Kotb, Community Maps Advocate at Esri Canada.

Click HERE for video interview

This peaked my interest, and reminded me of earlier initiatives in Nova Scotia. For example, Community Counts, the CLICK project and MapAnnapolis. What is the current status of these initiatives?

I raised the question with faculty at the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS). While I did not receive any definitive answers, I did have a response from Dave Maclean about the current virtual learning environment in Lawrencetown. Not being familiar with this world, I thought it worth sharing. Other members of the community may have an interest in the happenings inside the walls of COGS.

The virtual environment is global. So there is real potential to engage the GIS community in a network of mapping experiences. Here are a couple of possible examples.

One of my grandchildren lives in Iqaluit. What would it take to create a community map of the town from his perspective? Could the map be shared with his age cohort across other Northern communities? Or elsewhere in the world?

One of the issues in rural Nova Scotia is clearcutting the forests. Could we produce maps of clearcuts and potential clearcuts for Southwest Nova? Could we compare these maps of activity on crown land with equivalent maps in other countries, e.g. UK, New Zealand? If they apply ecological forestry, can we detect the difference? No spraying.

The reduction in face to face learning creates an opportunity. It can be more individualized, and less influenced by local context. Can we create customized networks around the individual needs of the community? Can we merge communities of place with communities of interest?


To Jon Murphy and Dave Maclean, both COGS graduates. Edward Wedler, COGS faculty in a earlier life.


GoGeomatics magazine interview, November 24, 2020.

Dave Maclean presentation for Esri Canada GIS Day Fall 2020.

Posted in biographical sketch, Video Review

Striking Balance

Last Sunday, we saw two very different views of the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve.

Around noon, we joined the protest by Extinction Rebellion (XR) at their encampment near the Silver River Wilderness Area.

Along with fifty or so other citizens, we formed a human chain along the forest boundary. We were protesting the impact of forest harvesting on the mainland moose habitat. The area is designated crown land and forms part of the buffer zone between the core protected area, Kejimkujik National Park and the Tobeatic Wilderness Area, and the working landscape. The Biosphere Reserve covers five counties in Southwest Nova Scotia. The mainland moose is designated as a species at risk.

In the evening on TVO, they aired the documentary Striking Balance.

Season 2, Episode 9 presented the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve. This one hour program showed numerous examples of invasive species (e.g. green crab, pickerel, woolly hemlock adelgid) in the region and the efforts, particularly by Parks Canada to control their spread. Other segments looked at sea level rise and coastal communities, lichens and acid rain, plus the development of an interactive digital atlas.

What was missing, was any reference to the forestry practices and their impact on wildlife habitat. In particular, the impact of clearcutting and spraying in the buffer zone. The buffer is made up of both crown land and private land ownership.

As we drove home from Digby County to Paradise (Annapolis County) we listened to the radio. There were interviews with the three candidates for leadership of the provincial Liberal party. They all made reference to the Lahey report and its implementation in 2021. As well, there was talk about revisiting the definition of ‘crown lands’. We must wait to see whether our government can find a better balance between ecological, cultural and economic sustainability.

Meanwhile, XR will continue to occupy their encampment. We are hoping for reform within the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry — a renewed respect for the forested landscape and the habitat of species at risk — by implementing the Lahey report recommendations, redefining of crown lands, and thus reducing the need for clearcutting and spraying.


Heather Stewart, Doug Hickman, Nina Newington and many others who support this worthy cause. Edward Wedler for his graphics contribution.


Striking Balance, Season 2 Episode 8 Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve.


Forest protectors from 30Nov2020 Encampment Update Note. Credit: Laura Bright.

Latest coverageChronicle Herald – McNeil Turns Blind Eye to Endangered MooseNS Forest Notes – Follow the new logging roadsNS Forest Notes – Shanni Bee to Iain Rankin
Social MediaBlockade to Stop Clear-Cutting – Facebook Event pageStand up for Moose Country Rally – Facebook Event pagePhone Blitz – loggers have arrived – Facebook Event page
Calling WestFor & GovernmentShow support for the blockade by calling the company in charge of the logging and the government.  
WestFor main line: 9020-530-2362Marcus Zwicker (General Manager) 902-210-7073
See below for Derek Mombourquette’s contact information.  
Letter WritingSend a letter to the Minister of Lands and Forests and others to note your support for the blockade and request an immediate moratorium on all proposed and current logging on Crown lands from Fourth Lake south to the Napier River in Digby County.  The opinion piece by Bob Bancroft from the Chronicle Herald) Clearcuts squeeze out beleaguered mainland moose is a great resource you can use to help with crafting your letters.  Contact Info: Minister of Lands and Forests – Derek Mombourquette – Halifax Main Office: (902) 424-5935Sydney Office: 902-562-8870Premier – Stephen McNeil –  (902) 424-6600Minister of Environment – Gordon Wilson – (902) 424-3600Your MLA: contact info here: of the Opposition – Tim Houston: (902) 424-2731Auditor General – (902) 424-5907
Posted in Article Review, Video Review

Times have changed

Do you remember when we had a weekly local newspaper in Bridgetown (The Monitor) and in Middleton (The Mirror-Examiner)? Do you recall reading the column written by Anne Ottow?

As we were completing the organic certification and inspection process with Allison Grant, I discovered in my filing cabinet a copy of Ottow’s interview with Raymond and Rona Hunter. It was published on October 9th, 1996. I hope that you can read it.

After the Hunters, the farm was briefly in the care of Rob and Clara Flanagan. Andrew, my son, purchased the property in 2005. And here we are in 2020, maintaining and harvesting organic apples from trees planted by Raymond.

The news media has changed significantly in the Valley, partly in response to the Internet. Larry Powell, who was a reporter with the Saltwire network is now employed by the municipality of Annapolis. His latest contribution is a YouTube video with Gregory Heming. Gregory has decided to withdraw, and not defend his seat in the forthcoming municipal election. Meanwhile, in Lawrencetown, I received a flier in my mailbox about the voting patterns of Councillor Martha Roberts. The author was Ron Habinski, father of the warden, Timothy. Not sure exactly what this means.

The best source of information for the forthcoming election, meetings and gatherings,and items for sale and service is The Reader. Steve Raftery and Andy Kerr are maintaining an election web site.

In conclusion, I did receive an email from Nina Newington about a moratorium on spraying on private forest land this year. However, it still leaves unanswered a number of questions about forest management in Annapolis County:

How much forested land exists in Annapolis County?
How much forested land in the County has been clear-cut and sprayed? When and where?
If there is a moratorium on clear-cutting/spraying, what is the impact on the forestry sector?
How much of Annapolis County is crown land?
How much is private woodlots?
How much is forested but conserved for outdoor recreation, e.g. parks?
How much is forested but protects the water supply, e.g. Lawrencetown?
How much is forested wetland or deciduous woodland at the slope of North Mountain

This is the type of analyses that the county needs to undertake on behalf its citizens — if, indeed, it believes in ecological forestry. I have suggested to Timothy Habinski that the Municipality should collaborate with COGS to conduct this type of geographic analysis, with maps, imagery and statistics.


Raymond and Rona Hunter were strong advocates for organic agriculture. This means NO SPRAYING on our agricultural land.


Edward and Heather for their abiding interest in the landscape of Annapolis County and the species that live there. The potential for evidence-based management. Anne Crossman for moderating the all-candidate meetings for Districts 3 and 7.


Larry Powell, YouTube video.
Steve Raftery and Andy Kerr for the municipal election web site via The Reader.

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 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, Video Review

Rewilding the Annapolis Valley

This week was the end of the Apple harvest.appleHarverst2019_4b Brian Boates picked up eight bins for juicing in Woodville, before transporting it to Ironworks Distillery in Lunenburg. At the same time, I heard from Pierre that the first shipment of Hunter Brandy should be available later this month.


On Wednesday, I stopped at Books Galore in Coldbrook. I found a revised edition of Wendell Berry’s A Place on Earth. Berry describes life in Port William, Kentucky. It was first written in 1967 and extensively revised in 1983. I also unearthed Thomas Raddall’s Memoir, In My Time.

Another place-related book was the discovery of Isabella Tree’s Wilding: the Return of Nature to a British Farm. This set me thinking about “wilding the landscape”. The primary inspiration was a pair of YouTube videos by George Monbiot and Alan Featherstone, describing the Rewilding Movement in the United Kingdom, especially in Scotland.

George Monbiot is a well-known columnist for The Guardian. The Rewilding message is a very positive one. It is to bring back species that were part of the landscape and to work with ecological processes in its recovery. In the Scottish Highlands, the main focus has been replanting native tree species.

The concept and philosophy could be applied to the Annapolis Valley. For example, in collaboration with the Clean Annapolis River Project (CARP) we could remove the tidal power dam at Annapolis Royal and allow the river and its Ecology to return to a pre-dam condition. We could also manage the runoff from the small communities and the surrounding farmland. With this type of action, it may be possible to reapply for heritage river status. This application was tried a couple of decades ago.

Monbiot, in his presentation, speaks to the palaeo-ecology in the British Isles. What would be the palaeo-ecology of the Annapolis Valley region, before the arrival of the settler culture? What have been the transformations of the landscape since the settlement of Annapolis Royal? What is the relationship between the marine environment and its ecology with the terrestrial landscape; in the past, pre-settlement era and today?

To develop an appreciation of these changes in landscape ecology, we must be able to map the ecology over time. This would make a remarkable research project for students and faculty at the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS), alongside the local NGOs.

Meanwhile, reading the latest AIRO newsletter I noted a reference to Royal Acres Estate and their Scottish Highland cattle and the MareGold Retreat Centre at Victoria Beach. Both supported by AIRO, these initiatives seem compatible with the Rewilding Movement in the UK.

Please check out the YouTube videos.


Nina Newington for the Isabella Tree reference. Jane Nicholson for her work at Annapolis Investments in Rural Opportunity (AIRO). Heather for help with the apple harvest. Edward for his continued graphics support.


Wendell Berry 1983. A Place on Earth. North Point Press.
Thomas Randall. 1976. In My Time. A Memoir. McClelland and Stewart.
Isabella Tree. 2019. Wilding: the Return of Nature to a British Farm. Pan MacMillan.
George Monbiot. 2016. Rewilding and its Place on the Global Development agenda.
Plymouth University. YouTube video.
Alan Featherstone. 2016. Presentation at Plymouth University. YouTube video (see above).

Posted in Video Review

BURNED: Are Trees the new Coal ?

Last Sunday, there was a screening of the documentary film BURNED: Are Trees the new Coal? at the United Church in Annapolis Royal.

The film was provided by the Ecology Action Centre. A full room watched the film. It was followed by a mediated discussion on the state of forestry in Nova Scotia.

The film showed the cutting of forests, primarily in the Southeast United States, their conversion into wood chips, and the shipping to European markets … BURNED.

‘The film tells the story of how woody biomass has become the fossil fuel industry’s renewable green saviour to climate change. Power plants in the UK and elsewhere have replaced coal with woody biomass. This allowed these countries, ostensibly, to meet their commitments to the Paris Accord on climate change.’

After the movie, Donna Crossland made a short presentation on the situation in Nova Scotia. This included the biomass plants in Pictou and Port Hawkesbury, the shipping of wood chips from Sheet Harbour. She also showed the extent of forest removal since 2000. This led to an audience discussion on the types of citizen action possible in Southwest Nova Scotia. When will the recommendations of the Lahey report be implemented ? What is the current level of cutting on crown land ? Randy Fredericks circulated a petition to save Hardwood Hill, a 30-40 hectare woodlot near Tupperville, Annapolis County (see Chronicle Herald p. A3, November 19,2018).

What can we do?

i) hold our elected representatives accountable?
ii) engage in citizen science?
iii) change the conversation away from resource economics? Treating the landscape as a commodity.

The next opportunity for accountability at the municipal level is November 28. Climate Change and the Human Prospect at Kings Theatre 7:30 pm. Both Warden, Timothy Habinski, and Councillor Gregory Heming will be available to answer questions.

According to the Department of Lands and Forestry, the online harvest plan map viewer lets the public know about potential future harvests on crown land, and people who sign up for direct notification will get an email each time a proposed harvest is posted (CH Nov 19 A3).

In BURNED, members of the Dogwood Alliance monitored the number of trucks, their load as they entered the biomass plants. The movement of wood products throughout Nova Scotia is a ‘geographic problem’. We know the sources. We know the possible destinations. Can we track the movements?

Before stands are harvested, we can use drones to fly over the stands. Can we conduct bio-blitz? That is an inventory of species. If the stands are harvested, we can monitor the quality of the work.

If Annapolis County is our main focus, we could request the engagement of faculty and students at the Centre of Geographic Sciences in this urgent ‘geographic problem’

From the documentary, the task is clearly beyond the local political arena. There are major vested business interests. We have to change the language: different voices, different skills, different values. Each of us, individually, and in community groups, must live and demonstrate the alternative. Can Annapolis County be the start of a movement for real change in Nova Scotia?

Looking for help and hope, I went to my bookshelves. I can recommend the writings of Stan Rowe and Doug Aberley in Canada, Mitchell Thomashow and Gary Snyder in the United States. They should be available through the wonderful services of inter-library loan, or from friends.


Edward Wedler for his remote technology expertise and contribution on graphics. Heather Stewart for her ecological insights and encouragement.


Lahey Report

Healthy Forest Coalition

Harvest Plan Map Viewer

Stan Rowe. 1990. Home Place. Essays on Ecology. NeWest Press

Stan Rowe. 2006. Earth Alive. Essays on Ecology. NeWest Press.

Doug Aberley (ed) 1993. Boundaries of Home. New Society Publishers

Mitchell Thomashow  1996. Ecological Identity. Becoming a Reflective Environmentalist. MIT Press.

Gary Snyder.1990. The Practice of the Wild. North Point Press.

Paul  Ebenkamp (ed). 2010 The Etiquette of Freedom. Gary Snyder and Jim Harrison. The Practice of the Wild. Counterpoint. Includes DVD.