Posted in New thinking

Beginning Again

I had intended to review, “A Sense of Humus” but Heather was looking for some light reading this week. Her review suggests that it will be a worthwhile read.

bookCover_beginningAgainMeanwhile, I went to the bookcase and found “Beginning Again: People and Nature in the New  Millennium” by David Ehrenfeld. While written in 1993, looking towards 2000, it holds true in 2020, looking towards a post-COVID world.

I think it was Tuesday. I was preparing the bed to transplant some tomato plants from the greenhouse and discovered a common toad.

Ehrenfeld’s second essay is titled ‘The Roots of Prophecy: Orwell and Nature”.

What was Nature to George Orwell?

Ehrenfeld lists three qualities:

  • honesty
  • reliability/continuity/durability/resilience
  • beauty and serenity

bookCover_commonToadHe also makes reference to Orwell’s thoughts on the common toad’. For example,

“At any rate, Spring is here, even in London N1 and they can’t stop you enjoying it. This is a satisfying reflection. How many a time have I stood watching the toads mating, or a pair of hares having a boxing match in the young corn, and thought of all the important persons who would stop me enjoying this if they could. But luckily they can’t. So long as you are not actually ill, hungry, frightened or immured in a prison or a holiday camp, spring is still spring. The atom bombs are piling up at the factories, the police are prowling through the cities, the lies are streaming from the loudspeakers, but the earth is still going round the sun, and neither dictators nor bureaucrats, deeply as they disapprove of the process, are able to prevent it”. p.6

Here is my second observation. Heather feeds the kitchen vegetable waste to her worms in the basement. We use the worm castings to add to our soil in the greenhouse. One of the by-products from the worm humus is that it is full of tomato seeds. The seeds and skins are separated in the making of tomato sauce. Those are the tomato plants which I transplanted into the garden, under the watchful eye of the common toad.

This raises a larger question. What are the memories of earlier lives and events that build up the human humus? Time to read Bertha Damon.

(It is interesting to note that George Orwell was born in 1903 and died in 1950, aged 47 years. He saw the end of the Second World War).

Returning to Ehrenfeld:

“If this alternative way of living grows and prospers, I doubt that it will do so by some master plan or protocol…..

“Nature will have entered their lives at an early age and will remain as a source of joy and as a measure of their best and worst efforts. They will welcome the challenge that Orwell hoped for, a simpler, harder world in which machines, like their inventors, are understood to be limited. They will devote their first energies to the places where they live. They will come to authority not by violence but by their evident ability to replace a crumbling system with something better’.” p.193


Heather for her commitment to life and Nature. Edward for his collaboration and creativity. Jane for starting this conversation.


David Ehrenfeld, 1993. Beginning Again: People and Nature in the New Millennium. Oxford University Press.
George Orwell, 2010. Some Thoughts on the Common Toad. PenguinRandomHouse Books. Great Ideas #99.
Bertha Damon, 1943. A Sense of Humus. Simon & Schuster.

Posted in Book Review

A Sense of Humus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Posted in Opinion

A New Economy

As promised, I post an image of the apple orchard in blossom.

Two emails arrived in my Inbox this morning (Wednesday, May 27).


  1. Google Alert on Gordonstoun from Anne Crossman
  2. Natural Climate Solutions meeting from Nina Newington.

“BBD Education, the UAE school management consultancy, has announced it will help one of the world’s leading schools, Gordonstoun School, to support its brand expansion into Nova Scotia, Canada.”

“Earlier this year, the highly-coveted private school announced expansion plans in China with BBD Education support.”

The expected opening of a Gordonstoun School in Nova Scotia is in 2022.

For the Natural Climate Solutions meeting, there were three attached submissions to the European Union over Burning of Biomass for Energy.

From Norris Whiston, Earltown:

“Where I live I am presently surrounded by clear cuts and listen and watch trucks pass my home with logs of various sizes on their way to mills and chipping mills.”

The Gordonstoun announcement and date 2022 reminded me that there will be a post-COVID world. The Norris Whiston quote reminded me that our forested landscape is still for sale.

Can we not use this time to rethink our economy?

Do we have to destroy our forests because they represent jobs in rural Nova Scotia?

Currently, the lobster fishery is on hold because of the lack of a market in China.

What are the economic values behind the Gordonstoun project? Is this another example of the Nova Scotia landscape up for sale?

Is it a coincidence that BBD Education is expanding into China and Nova Scotia at the same time?

I am thinking that it is time for Nova Scotia (Canada) to re-examine its values in a post-colonial, post-COVID world. We could use the two-year window to help re-define the philosophy of education at Gordonstoun School within the context of community — an ethics of place and in a new collaborative global economy.

logo_centreForLocalProsperityFinally, tonight, I notice in the newsletter from the Centre of Local Prosperity, they are hosting a virtual retreat on “Pandemic and Climate Crisis, and the Uncertain Future of Local Community”. Seems to match my thinking.


Anne Crossman for sending the Google Alert. Nina Newington for material for the next Natural Climate Solutions virtual meeting. Edward for his input and graphics.


Google alert email
Natural Climate Solutions email
Centre for Local Prosperity newsletter. May 27, 2020.

Posted in Creative writing, Nature

Road Trip/Spring Flowers

On Sunday, it was time for a road trip to New Glasgow. Heather had baked two pies: a spinach and bacon quiche, and an apple pie with crumble topping. This time, after Truro, we headed to Earltown, Brule and River John.bookCover_2books_hermitSpar Passing by Nuttby Mountain, we remembered the Hermit of Gully Lake, written by Joan Baxter. Further along the Berichan Road, I was reminded of Peter Sanger’s book Spar: Words in Place. We also recalled attending ‘Read by the Sea’ at the Firehall in River John.

Left at 7 am home by 7 pm. We spent the day with Great Grandad John and managed to FaceTime with all six great grandchildren. Siqsiq, the lone Inuit sled dog came along for the ride. It was an excellent day.

On Monday, I wanted to check the ephemeral Spring flowers that grow along the banks of the Annapolis River. It is a special habitat under Red Oak and White Pine, on riverine sands and gravel.wildflowersAnnapolisRiver

3wildflowersWe found Anemone (Anemone quinquefolia), Nodding Trillium (Trillium cernuum) and Bellwort (Uvularia sessifolia), undisturbed on Andrew’s property. This reminded me that now is a good time to rediscover these special botanical places, along the River, as well as in the beech woods on the slopes of North Mountain.

With the late frosts and dry, sunny days, it remains a challenge to plant out seedlings from the greenhouse. We really do need a couple of cool, rainy days.


Heather for the baking, travel companionship and botanical expertise. Edward for the technical graphics.


AE Roland and AR Olson, 1993. Spring Wild Flowers, Nimbus NSM.
Joan Baxter, 2005. The Hermit of Gully Lake: the life and times of Willard Kitchener MacDonald, Pottersfield Press.
Peter Sanger, 2002. Spar: Words in Place, Gaspereau Press.

Posted in biographical sketch

Waiting for Blossom

The orchard is prepared; will send a photograph later of the apple blossom.pic_orchard21May2020 This week it has been all about Spring and gardening.

In the meantime, from the Internet, I offer three links to explore.

From Emergence Magazine, listen to Sanctuaries of Silence.

From Brain Pickings, read Walt Whitman on the wisdom of trees.person_waltWhitman

From England, check out Planted’s first newsletter on the greening of cities.banner_PlantedNewsletterNo1


Edward for making the linkages. Heather for the gardening work.

Emergence Magazine, May 21, 2020
Brain Pickings mid-week, May 19, 2020
Planted. May 2020 newsletter.

Posted in Opinion

The Ethics of Place

This week, I was in contact with the municipal councillor, Gregory Heming, about Aldo Leopold’s land ethic and the forestry practices in Annapolis County. Gregory was kind enough to share a presentation he made before the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development in 2006.

But first, let’s revisit Aldo Leopold.bookCover_sandCountyAlmanac In The Sand County Almanac, there are a series of essays, including the Land Ethic (p.237-264) and Wilderness (p.264-279).

“A land ethic, then, reflects, the existence of an ecological conscience and this, in turn, reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of the land. Health in the capacity of the land for self-renewal. Conservation is our effort to understand and preserve this capacity.” p.258.

Heming put forward four notions.

1) If CEPA (Canadian Environmental Protection Act) does not tie directly and pragmatically into community life, into rural civic life, it is not likely to gain the support of the people.

2) from David Kemmis,
“ it would be an insult to these people to assume that they are incapable of reaching some accommodation among themselves about how to inhabit their own place”

3) from Wilkinson,
“An ethic of place respects equally the people of a region and the land, animals, vegetation, water and air. An ethic of place ought to be a shared community value.”

4) from Erica Jong,
“Take your life in your own hands”, she said. “And what happens ?” A terrible thing “no one is to blame”.

Today’s reality. We have the Minister, Nova Scotia Lands and Forests talking about the practices for harvesting crown land on South Mountain. What will be the impact of these practices on the citizens living within the Annapolis watershed?bookCover_AnnaCoForestry2018

How can the ethics of place espoused at the municipal level be reconciled with the industrial forestry espoused at the provincial level? Edward Wedler reminded me about the Annapolis County Forestry report. We should evaluate it from the perspective of an Ethics of Place.

In these pandemic times, it is even more critical that we do not lose the voices of the citizens.

For supportive views on the ethics of place, check out the writing of Gary Snyder and Wendell Berry.

A Place on Earth (Berry)
A Place in Space (Snyder)


Watched Ellen Page 2019 documentary on Netflix about environmental racism in Nova Scotia, “There is something in the water.” Very relevant and thought-provoking. Highlighting Shelburne, Boat Harbour and Shubenacadie.


To Gregory Heming for sharing his 2006 presentation.Edward Wedler for his technical support. Heather Stewart for her moral support.


Aldo Leopold. 1966. A Sand County Almamac, with essays on Conservation from Round River. Ballantine Books.
Wendell Berry.1983. A Place on Earth. North Point Press.
Gary Snyder. 1995. A Place in Space. Counterpoint.
Gregory Heming. Presentation to House of Commons Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. 2006.
Municipality County of Annapolis, 2018. Forestry Report.

Posted in Opinion

Good Living

This week, I have pulled down three pairs of books.bookCover_livingTheGoodLife

Living the Good Life: how to live sanely and simply in a troubled world. Helen and Scott Nearing.
Loving and Leaving the Good Life. Helen Nearing.

Composing a Life. Mary Catherine Bateson.
Composing a Further Life. Mary Catherine Bateson.

The Making of a Counter Culture. Theodore Roszak.
The Making of an Elder Culture. Theodore Roszak.

Scott and Helen Nearing spent nineteen years of experimental homesteading in Vermont. This was followed by eighteen years at Harborside in Maine.

Last summer, Heather and I happened on the Good Life Center in Maine (EBE blog post, The Maine Line, July 7, 2019).

“Scott Nearing died three weeks after his hundredth birthday. He went with dignity, purposefully fasting, after a long and good life”.

After looking at the writing of both Bateson and Roszak, I decided to stay with Helen Nearing’s memoir. From the cover,

“At 87, Helen seems content to be nearing the end of her good life. As she put it, ”To have partaken of and given love is the greatest of life rewards. There seems never an end to the loving that goes on forever and ever. Loving and leaving are part of the living.”

Helen Nearing died in a single-car crash in 1995, aged 91.

pic_UkeTribute to Uke. Uqaliq (Rabbit)
“Uke” was born on Baffin Island in 2003. She moved with her sister Siksik (Arctic ground squirrel) to Prince George, BC. They were Patrick’s skijoring team. Later, they moved with the family to Cape Breton. Finally, they came to Paradise, Nova Scotia where they have enjoyed the walking trails through the orchard and the forest nursery. She will be missed by her human family and sister.

banner_sparkWayfindingListening to CBC Spark, there was an interview with Michael Bond on his new book, From Here to There: The Art and Science Of Finding and Losing our Way. It is about space and memory. I have ordered it online, from the Inside Story.


Heather for her companionship in the search for good living. Edward for his artistic and technical support.


Helen and Scott Nearing. 1954. Living the Good Life. Schocken Books.
Helen Nearing. 1992. Loving and Leaving the Good Life.Chelsea Green.
Mary Catherine Bateson. 1989. Composing a Life. Grove Press.
Mary Catherine Bateson. 2020. Composing a Further Life. Knopf.
Theodore Roszak. 1969. The Making of a Counter Culture. Anchor.
Theodore Roszak. 2009. The Making of an Elder Culture. New Society.

Posted in biographical sketch

Blog Conversations

This week, I have had several conversations related to the Ernest Blair Experiment (EBE) blog. From Andrew in England, I received this link from Sam Peters at Planted. In particular, I enjoyed his descriptive language.banner_planted

From Sandra in Middleton, we talked about the demise of local newspapers. In the 1980’s I recall the Monitor in Bridgetown and the Mirror in Middleton. She used to write a column ‘Challenging Perspectives’. Today, we only have Saltwire service. Does the blog replace the local opinion column?

It has a much more limited distribution.

person_gregoryHemingI have been in touch with Gregory, one of our municipal councillors. If you go to you will find his thoughts on:

The Centre for Local Prosperity
Wisdom and Wilderness
Beauty and Grace
The Politics of Place

I had to connect with Clint at ESRI in Redlands, California. As a result of COVID-19 their annual GIS conference in July will be a virtual event. Given Esri technical expertise, I imagine it will be both a creative and educational experience.

person_gotzLast, I have been looking at our collection of music CDs, mostly Heather’s, and wondering how to incorporate music into the EBE blog. I have two CDs from Haida Gwaii featuring the guitar playing of Tassilo (Gotz):

Evocations from the Wilderness, 2000.
Touching the Place of Wonder, 2005.

Gotz lives in Rose Harbour, British Columbia. We last met in 2015. His music is original, instrumental acoustic guitar. From the 2000 cover:

“ I moved to the wilderness about twenty years ago with not much more for a start than a tent, a packsack, an axe and a guitar. Being alone in nature for long periods of time I had to be self-reliant in every aspect of life. After several years of exploring the surrounding landscape and many awe-invoking experiences, I was certain that this is where I wanted to settle, where air, water, land and forest meet.”

Hope you enjoy the music, as much as I do.

Thanks to Edward for his thoughts on blog enhancement through music and art.
Plus technology knowledge.


Andrew Ronay in England.
Sandra Barry and Gregory Heming in Annapolis County.
Brian Arnott in Lunenburg.
Heather Stewart in Paradise.
Clint Brown in Redlands, California.
Edward Wedler in Bedford, Nova Scotia.
All offered encouragement.


Sam Peters;why-its-good-to-care
Gregory Heming
Clint Brown

Posted in Book Review

Turtle Talk

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

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

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

From Gary Snyder,

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

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

From Peter Berg,

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

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

Finally, from Murray Bookchin:

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

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

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

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

Many of those voices are no longer with us.

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


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


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

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

Posted in Book Review, Opinion

Books and Memory

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

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

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

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

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

As conceived by Van Newkirk:

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

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

Meanwhile, from Chelsea Green Publishing:

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

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

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

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


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


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