Posted in Nature

Puzzles and Otters

puzzle_handsThis Christmas, we decided to send Cobble Hill jigsaw puzzles to our three grandchildren families. The puzzles were images of dinosaurs, birds and marine life. They are designed so that the size of the pieces changes from left to right. This allows the youngest grandchildren to match the larger pieces, and the parents can work on the smaller pieces.

The puzzle can be seen to be a metaphor. It is a problem to be solved. Each age group works on the puzzle pieces that they can handle. The community (family) work together, applying their particular skills to complete the puzzle (or solve the problem). From a fragmented image, we derive a holistic picture.


puzzle_birdCountLast Thursday, it was the Christmas bird count. It was a cold (-15C) windy day. The birds were sparse. In the morning, we walked up the Inglisville Road to the top of the mountain, and then back down through our property for lunch at home. In the afternoon, we went down through Andrew’s property to the Annapolis River. We saw a Golden Crested Kinglet flitting around the upper branches of the poplars. On the river, we spied a Common Merganser.

puzzle_ottersThe Annapolis River was full of floating ice pans. The highlight was to see two river otters who were curious to see two humans on the bank.

The otters reminded me of Gavin Maxwell and his book Ring of Bright Water. Maxwell went with Wilfred Thesiger to see the Marsh Arabs in Southern Iraq. The otter was a gift from Thesiger to Maxwell. Later Maxwell established an otter sanctuary near the Isle of Skye in Western Scotland. Not that far from where George Orwell (Eric Blair) ended his days on Jura.puzzle_iceBooks

Today, I am struggling to finish reading John Sutherland’s book, Orwell’s Nose: a pathological biography. It describes the importance of smells to Orwell and Orwell’s England.

Best wishes for the New Year 2019 to all readers.


Thanks to David Colville for reminding us about the Christmas Bird Count. Edward Wedler for his graphics contribution.


Gavin Maxwell. 1960. Ring of Bright Water. Longmans.

John Sutherland. 2016. Orwell’s Nose. Reaktion Books.

Cobble Hill puzzles Cobble Hill puzzles

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 Opinion

Wallander and the RID fund

Wallander is a BBC production, available on the CBC channel, about a detective solving murder crimes in Sweden. It combines problem-solving (joining the dots) with personal life issues, set in  a rural landscape. This scenario reminds me of living in rural Nova Scotia and attempting to understand the day to day political culture.

The Rural Innovation District (RID) fund is one of three funds administered by the NSCC. The other two funds are designed to address  innovation ecosystems in metro Halifax and Cape Breton. The ‘rural district’ refers to the geography of all of rural Nova Scotia, excluding the metropolitan areas.

Thinking about the ‘rural district’ and the community college, there are a significant number of non-metro campuses across Nova Scotia. If we were to address the needs of Annapolis County then the primary campuses would be COGS in Lawrencetown and the Middleton site. If we wanted to understand the innovation culture in this part of rural Nova Scotia, we would look at new directions in the business culture, the non-profit sector, as well as ongoing community initiatives.

Given this challenge, there would be two basic, first steps:

  1. establish a network of partners who could define the needs of Annapolis County;
  2. analyse the resources at both campuses that could be deployed to meet these needs.

My mental model would have two components:

a) a place-based education network (PEN)

b) a collaborative innovation laboratory (CIL)

These would be combined to form PENCIL. A pencil is a tool. It is used for both writing and drawing. With this concept, we would be able to ‘join the dots’. We could identify potential partners and test solutions to specific problems within a laboratory environment at the college. This has been tried in the past with the ACOA funded Business Incubation Centre on the Middleton campus. The difference, in this case, is that the community partners define the issues that need to be addressed, and work collaboratively with the campus resources.

The other difference is a ‘place-based’ education approach. This means that the issues are determined by the conditions in the local landscape. This could include forestry, agriculture, fisheries, culture, tourism, social and economic development. It might involve innovative approaches to science and technology.

Rather than expect the agenda to be driven by the college, allow the local geography to determine the issues. If the PENCIL concept works in one rural location, then look to the possibility of a modified version in a different geography. The key ingredients are a place-based education network and support for a collaborative innovation laboratory. It could be piloted in Annapolis County.

Perhaps we can get the BBC to produce a film series here. The new star might be Gordonstoun Nova Scotia.

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year !


To all friends and associates, who have encouraged me, all year, in writing this blog.


Wallander. Kenneth Branagh plays the Detective Kurt Wallander.

Rural Innovation District Fund Rural Innovation District Fund

Posted in Opinion

Bring back Coastlands

As we readied the house for Christmas, it was time to sort out a stack of old magazines for recycling or garbage. The pile included Haida Laas from Haida Gwaii, as well as Northword from Northern BC. From Nova Scotia, it contained the Nova Scotia Policy Review. Politics, culture and justice and its successor, Coastlands. the 
Maritimes Policy Review. My last issue was Volume 4, Number 1. Spring 2011. Feast to Famine. Why our food system is in decay. Coastlands was published and edited by Rachel Brighton from Bridgetown.

On Wednesday, I caught up with Rachel at Bistro 300 in Middleton. I wanted to know what had happened to Coastlands. The answer – while policy issues remain a passion for her – the magazine subscriptions  were hardly paying the bills. She moved on, to other roles, and work environments.

As we come to the end of 2018, with local conversations about climate change, ‘coastlands’ are very much on the table. Part of my engagement is that I enjoy seeing the use of simple, provocative, geographic language.

Seven years have passed. These days, I receive the Guardian Weekly to obtain a global perspective. The Walrus gives me a Canadian view. What is available at the local, provincial level to give me a critical perspective ? What has happened in terms of rural Nova Scotia and its development ?

If I look at the last issue of Coastlands, I find feature articles on Community Economics, Ecology, Food and Agriculture, Health, Politics and Culture, Energy and Environment, Justice. There is a book review of a biography on David Adams Richards. Coastlands included cartoons by Janet Larkman, as well as the editorial talent of Rachel Brighton.

Here are but two examples. Rachel writes a column called Orwell Answers.

“A jolly good fallow.


Where have you been ? We’ve all been wondering, what’s become of George ? I missed your replies and battling thoughts back and forth. I hope this letter finds you well and in good spirits even in these dreary days when all anyone hears about is this famine or that flood or that assassin. I would like to hear some words of wisdom and encouragement, but find none.

Wistfully, Frank.

Dear Frank,

I thought to lie fallow for a year. To be honest though, I was beginning to find the periodical that publishes these exchanges a little depressing and perhaps tiresome. We have so many pamphleteers and so little peace. I hope I can be of some encouragement to your readers, especially you.

Write soon with some good news,

George ”


The second example is a Vesper. The Marinade of Time.

“Let us think of quietly enlarging our stock of true and fresh ideas, and not, as soon as we get an idea or half an idea, be running out with it into the street, and trying to make it rule there. Our idea will, in the end, shape the world all the better for maturing a little.”

Matthew Arnold 1914.’The Function of Criticism” in Essays. Oxford University Press.

This speaks directly to my impatient, blogging self.

After seven years, it may be time for Coastlands to resurface. Perhaps an online version. There has been a lot of water splashing up on our shores, without a critical policy review or any evidence-based analysis.


Thanks to Rachel Brighton for her insights into the concerns of rural Nova Scotians.

Sorry, no graphics. Edward is still afloat somewhere down South in warmer climes.


Haida Laas is the newsletter of the Council of the Haida Nation.

Northword Magazine is a regional magazine for northern BC, published in Smithers. Northwood Magazine

The Nova Scotia Policy Review and Coastlands were published between 2007-2011.

Posted in Event Review

Gordonstoun Nova Scotia

Congratulations to our hard-working councillors for their procurement of this opportunity. In my terms, it speaks volumes for ‘place-based education’ in Nova Scotia. I had every intention of being at the announcement. There were swirling rumours about a new Cannabis operation at the Britex plant in Centrelea, as well as the Gordonstoun connection.

Saturday, Heather Stewart decided to attend the workshop at Mersey Tobeatic Research Institure (MTRI) for woodlot owners on the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. Being car-less, I walked down to the Lawrencetown library to retrieve David Quammen’s The Tangled Tree. This is a revision of Darwin’s tree of life. Afterwards, I did not have the energy to walk into Bridgetown from East Paradise for the announcement.

In the Annapolis County Spectator, Tim Habinski makes an interesting observation.

“If there’s a point I really want people to know about the school, and about why this project, it is this: when we went to Gordonstoun, I presented specifically on the values and culture of Annapolis County. I wanted them to know what kind of county it was.”

This is our collective challenge ‘what are the values and culture of Annapolis County ?”

Being a Geographer, with a long-term commitment to the educational institutions in the County, I would argue they are ‘place-based’: the Bay of Fundy, Annapolis Valley, South Mountain (Kejimkujik National Park and the Tobeatic Wilderness Area), North Mountain.

Historically, this will takes us from the Mi’kmaq culture, to Samuel Champlain, the Acadians, Black Nova Scotians to Joshua Slocum and then more recently, the writings of Ernest Buckler, and other artists.

Of course, its way too soon for me to recall, digest and reflect on my memories of the United Kingdom, the monarchy and the school system there. Oddly enough, we were watching Prince Philip in an old episode of The Crown on Netflix last night. Its now over fifty years since I made Canada my permanent home.


Edward Wedler is away in the Caribbean, and so we will miss his graphics.


David Quammen. 2018. The Tangled Tree. A Radical New History of Life.  Simon and Schuster.

Annapolis County Spectator December 9, 2018. Annapolis County Spectator

Developer’s interest in vacant Annapolis County schools leads council to Scotland.

Mutual ethos and historic connection – ‘Gordonstoun reflects our values’, says Annapolis County Warden Habinski.

World Class – Top international private boarding school franchise coming to Annapolis County.

Posted in Book Review

Proust and the Squid

On CBC’s The Sunday Edition (December 2nd), Michael Enright interviewed Maryanne Wolf on the subject of the reading brain in the digital world and her new book.readerComeHome  squid


The following day, we went over to Mahone Bay and Lunenburg. At Lexicon Books, I purchased a copy of the earlier book Proust and the Squid: the story and science of the Reading Brain.

‘Knowing what reading demands of our brain and knowing how it contributes to our capacity to think, to feel, to infer and to understand other human beings is especially important today, as we make the transition from a reading brain to an increasingly digital one.’ p.4.

Wolf describes the reading brain’s development and evolution – both the personal-intellectual and the biological. She uses Marcel Proust as a metaphor and the squid as an analogy for two different aspects of reading.

Proust saw reading as a kind of ‘intellectual sanctuary’ where human beings have access to thousands of different realities.

‘The study of what the human brain has to do to read is analogous to the study of the squid in earlier neuroscience’.

My interest revolves around the relationship between reading about a landscape and experiencing that landscape. From my blogs, you will have noticed the tendency to link reading of a variety of local authors to our sense of place.

The other dimension relates to our changing digital world (check out the podcast). There is a difference between book-length reading and short blogs. It is increasingly difficult to balance the reading brain between these different formats. However, the challenges presented by Wolf in her books make it all worthwhile.


Kent Thompson describes his search for copies of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina as an excuse for getting out of town on his bicycle. Today, I found two volumes of this book at the Thrift store in the village of Lawrencetown.

artOfTravelMy second link relates to Alain de Botton’s book The Art of Travel. He describes the work of John Ruskin on word-painting.

‘The effectiveness of Ruskin’s word-painting derived from his method of not only describing what places looked like but also analyzing their effect on us in psychological language. He recognized that many places strike us as beautiful not on the basis of aesthetic criteria – but on the basis of psychological criteria because they embody a value or mood of importance to us’.

Back to Wolf (in fact Walter Ong)

‘The interaction between morality that all human beings are born into, and the technology of writing, which no one is born into, touches the depth of the psyche.

Writing introduces division and alienation, but a higher unity as well. It intensifies the sense of self and fosters more conscious interaction between persons. Writing is consciousness-raising’.

Finally, Marcel Proust:

‘I believe that reading, in its original essence, is that fruitful miracle of a communication in the midst of solitude.


CBC Sunday Edition. December 2, 2018. Michael Enright. Podcast.  Come Home: the Reading Brain in the Digital World.

Maryanne Wolf. 2008. Proust and the Squid. The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. Harper Perennial.

Maryanne Wolf. 2018. Reader Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World. Harper and Collins.

Alain de Botton.2002. The Art of Travel. Penguin Books.

Posted in Event Review

Climate Change and the Human Prospect: Annapolis Royal

On Wednesday evening, we attended the screening of Climate Change and the Human Prospect in Annapolis Royal. This was a month after we attended a screening at the Municipal building in Kentville (see earlier blog October 25). I want to highlight a number of differences in the context, as well as offer some thoughts on next steps.

“The 100 most substantive solutions to reverse global warming …”

The venue last night was at King’s Theatre. Janet Larkman spoke well to the role that the theatre plays as an educational hub in the region.  It also allowed for the use of modern technology. We were able to ‘Skype’ with Crystal Chissell in San Francisco. She is Vice-President of Operations and Engagement at Project Drawdown. We had access to a large screen. The viewing of Andrea Vandenboer’s documentary on the Thinkers Retreat was a very different experience. Thirdly, we had the pleasure of Gregory Heming, Centre for Local Prosperity and local Councillor facilitating the evening. Again, this was missing in Kentville. The Centre for Local Prosperity sponsored the making of the documentary and the screening. The audience in Kentville was primarily municipal officials whereas in Annapolis Royal the much larger audience was a diverse group of interested, informed citizens.

Starting with Project Drawdown, solutions were divided into seven sectors: Materials, Electricity Generation, Food, Land Use, Women and Girls, Transport, Building and Cities. These solutions formed the core of the discussion at the retreat. The documentary presented the view from the twenty-four thinkers at the three-day retreat.

After the screening, Gregory hosted a question and answer session with the audience. Some questions addressed specific concerns in Annapolis County, namely forestry practices, sea level rise, as well as the larger issue of citizen engagement.

What can citizens do?

There is a new group in town, Annapolis Climate Change Action Group. Specific questions related to how we can influence politicians and the necessity for place-based education.

There were some missing pieces. In Kentville, all members of the audience were invited to sign up, if they wanted to keep in touch. Unfortunately, the same thought did not arise last night in Annapolis Royal.

assetMapping_2In the documentary, there was a focus on Energize Bridgewater, perhaps Annapolis Royal could play a similar focal role with Land Use. If so, they may seek to collaborate with the Centre of Geographic Sciences, Lawrencetown and develop current maps and statistics on the status of the forest, agriculture and other land use types in the County.

logo_centreForLocalProsperityFrom the audience, the comment was made that ‘we only have twelve years’. How can we organize resources that go beyond the Centre for Local Prosperity and the Municipality of Annapolis County? What can we do to change our institutions: provincial and municipal government, as well as schools and post-secondary education institutions? How do we fully utilize the creative human resources in the region?  Are we taking full advantage of town hall-style meetings? We need to continue to keep looking everywhere for good ideas, innovation, and where appropriate new technology. Conversely, we need to share the special resources that we have locally with other communities. The impossible becomes an opportunity.


Edward Wedler continues to find relevant resources and images on the Internet. Heather Stewart always reminds me of the needs of other non-human species that inhabit our regional landscape, both on the land and in the surrounding waters.


Project Drawdown Project Drawdown

Centre for Local Prosperity Centre for Local Prosperity

Energize Bridgewater Energize Bridgewater




Posted in Book Review

Eccentrics in Paradise

In 1926, William Inglis Morse self-published a limited edition book, Eccentrics in Paradise and Other Essays. Besides short descriptions of some of the characters in the village, it also offers a description of the village itself.


‘In the Notes of 1888 (Ticknor and Company, Boston) Paradise is sketched as a ‘pleasantly situated village of about 400 inhabitants, with several sawmills, grist mills and tanneries. The principal exports are lumber and cheese, though there are also large deposits of merchantable granite in the vicinity’. p.8.

With reference to the Mi’kmaq:

‘their habitat was a government grant on the south side of the Annapolis River, at the head of the tide, from which vantage ground they witnessed the passing of the years and the river flowing to the sea.’ p.12

The book’s appeal, besides the title, is the relationship between the author and a specific place. Today, we still have the Morse estate and Burnbrae Farm.

A second example of author and place is between Elizabeth Bishop and Great Village. This week, Sandra Barry gave me a copy of Elizabeth Bishop’s Great Village. A Self-guided Tour. This is a beautiful combination of maps, history and images linked to Bishop’s writing.

‘ Bishop’s childhood in Great Village had a profound effect on her and years later her memories found their way into poems and stories. The village and its people were not merely subjects in Bishop’s work, her experience with them fundamentally shaped her worldview and artistic sensibility’. p 1.

A third example can be found in the writing of Kent Thompson, Getting out of town by book and bike. Thompson describes a bicycle ride from Annapolis Royal to West Dalhousie, and then back to Lequille on the old Dalhousie Road.

” Some 65 kilometres. Great day; one of the great rides in Nova Scotia. I almost hate to tell anyone about it. Might want to keep it a secret” p.98

En route, he visits Ernest Buckler’s gravesite at Gibson’s Lake.

” The graveyard sloped upward on one side, and on the other, the lake lapped softly in the sun, like the breathing of someone asleep”. p 91.

The original quote is from The Mountain and the Valley p. 89. For the full context, read Thompson, Chapter 6 Secret Road to the Lost Village. p. 83-98.

There, we have three very different examples of the relationship between literature and geography. I am not sure whether the self-guided tour format produced by Sandra Barry for the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia could be transferred to a self-guided bicycle tour of West Dalhousie for the Ernest Buckler Literary Event Society. What is evident, is that there are ‘eccentrics’ in many small rural communities. Their observations on rural life continue to sustain us, or in Sandra Barry’s words:

” Great Village is a place where roads converge. Each road (each travelled by Bishop) is followed to the edge of the village with hints of what lies beyond’ p. 1.

or Kent Thompson:

‘You can even capture passing time, a way of life with all its implements and terms, which is escaping. And is gone to the eye, now. Not a farm left on this road.” p.98.

The last word is with David Canaan (aka Ernest Buckler)

‘Suddenly he knew how to surmount everything….. (And all that time the key to freedom had been lying in these lines, this book) There was only one way to possess anything: to say it exactly. Then it would be outside you, captured and conquered.” MV p.195.

Discussions with Edward Wedler reveals that economic development has sprung from connecting literature/film to place (including Nova Scotia), as noted in his blog post “What do the Films Outlander, Titanic and Def-Con 4 have in Common?”


Thanks to Edward Wedler, Sandra Barry and Heather Stewart.


There is a screening of Climate Change and the Human Prospect on Wednesday, November 28th at Kings Theatre, Annapolis Royal at 7:30 pm. It will be followed by a Question and Answer session with Timothy Habinski, Gregory Heming and Robert Cervelli.


Willam Inglis Morse. 1926. Eccentrics in Paradise and Other Essays. Nathan Sawyer, Boston.

Sandra Barry 2005. Elizabeth Bishop’s Great Village. A Self-Guided Tour. Gaspereau Press.

Kent Thompson. 2001. Getting out of town by book and bike. Gaspereau Press.

Ernest Buckler. 1952. The Mountain and the Valley. McClelland and Stewart.(MV)


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.

Posted in Event Review

Coppicing and Charcoal-making

This weekend, we supported Alex and Selene Cole from Little Foot Yurts, Gaspereau with their annual November workshop on coppicing and charcoal-making. For the last eight years, Alex has been coppicing red maple on Andrew’s property across the road. The red maple is found on the floodplain above the Annapolis River. Coppicing is the practice of cutting the tree so that new shoots grow up from the main stem.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This is an annual cycle. After eight years, we have poles, two inches in diameter suitable for yurt construction. A second product from the residual branches is the making of charcoal. For this purpose, the branches are cut into lengths and packed into an airtight container. In our case, a recycled milk condenser. By burning, excluding the oxygen, the wood converts to charcoal. Both of these practices are traditional woodland skills from Europe.

Other by-products of the coppicing cycle are firewood to heat the home. Also wood for the creation of corduroy woods roads. These practices together offer an alternative model of small woodlot management, where you have mixed deciduous woodland.

For more information on the workshop and yurt construction contact little foot yurts.

Last week, as part of our research into landscape change in Cumberland County. We went to GeoNova, the Geomatics Centre in Amherst. Our interest was to obtain aerial photography for Heather’s family property at Hansford. We were able to purchase images at ten-year intervals from 1965 to 2015. This will allow us to map the end of farming, forest regrowth, and later-cutting. We envisage undertaking a similar analysis for our property in Annapolis County.

Harry Thurston. Gaspereau Press

Visiting Amherst, Oxford, Pugwash and Truro we are able to make comparisons of small towns in rural Nova Scotia: the cycle of service centre, decay and re-invention. At the Dayles Grand Market in Amherst, I  picked up a book by local author, Harry Thurston entitled Keeping watch at the End of the World. This book of poetry from Gaspereau Press is described on the back cover in the following terms.

“Harry Thurston explores ways in which poetry stands sentinel at the edge-places where known and unknown meet. Whether that frontier lies between land and sea, present and past, health and illness, or youth and ageing”

Thurston lives at Tidnish Bridge. With prompting from Sandra Barry, I subsequently revisited his 1990 book. Tidal Life. A Natural History of the Bay of Fundy.with photographs by Stephen Homer.

Another find at the GeoNova office was Nova Scotia Nature Map published in 1993. It was based on the book, Natural History of Nova Scotia.

Given the assault on our forested and marine landscape, perhaps it is time to revisit these 1990’s publications, to update them, and make them available to the schools.

Returning home, and stopping at the post office in Bridgetown, I found that they too have second-hand books. I picked up Thomas Merton, The True Solitude. Two passages in this small book caught my attention.

Our minds are like crows. They pick up everything that glitters, no matter how uncomfortable our nests get with all that metal in them‘. p.33
and p.36, in relation to poetry,
The poet enters into himself in order to create. The contemplative enters into God in order to be created“.

Merton was both a monk and a poet.


On November 28th at 7:30 pm at Kings Theatre, there will be a screening of Andrea Vandenboer video on Climate Change and the Human Prospect. The film documents the retreat at the Thinker’s Lodge in Pugwash, October 2017. Both Timothy Habinski and Gregory Heming attended the retreat and will be on hand to answer questions on the implications for the Municipality of Annapolis County.


Sandra Barry for encouraging me to pull Tidal Life off the bookshelves. Alex and Selene Cole for their consistent enthusiasm for sustainable forestry and traditional house structures.  Heather Stewart for her support and companionship. Edward Wedler for his graphic contributions.


Harry Thurston. 2015. Keeping Watch at the End of the World. Gaspereau Press.

Harry Thurston. 1990. Tidal Life. A Natural History of the Bay of Fundy.Nimbus Press.

Derek Davis. 1993. Nova Scotia Nature Map. LRIS Amherst.

M.Simmons, D.Davis, L. Griffiths and A. Muecke. 1984. Natural History of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia Departments of Education and Lands and Forests.

Thomas Merton. 1969. The True Solitude. Selections from the Writings of Thomas Merton. Hallmark Editions.

Little Foot Yurts  .little foot yurts


I loved the title of this poem by Harry Thurston in his 2015 book. Dedicated to Sandra Barry.

Geography: on first discovering Elizabeth Bishop in a used bookstore in Manhattan.