We’re in the deep freeze.

PEI wind blows, cold and fierce.

Time to recollect golden summer days—

and a little poem cheers.

Lady Bird

Ladybird, Legacy Garden, 2015.


Ladybird, Ladybird, fly away home,

the field mouse is gone to her nest,

the daisies have shut up their sleepy red eyes,

and the birds and the bees are at rest.


Ah, Heavenly Earth.

Christmas lights have been up all over Prince Edward Island for the past couple of weeks. I’m not able to include all the displays I’ve seen, but have selected a few from my regular route that have made a lasting impression.

At Clow’s General Store, North Wiltshire, Santa made an appearance with  North River Fire Department fire trucks lit with strings of bright lights and illuminated candy canes.


North River Fire Department’s vintage fire truck.

About 20 kilometres distant from North Wiltshire is North Rustico, a village well-known for Christmas displays.


This North Rustico home is mostly lit with scenes of the Nativity, but Santa and his helpful elves climb the ladder to the roof.


Right next door to the home featured above, is this equally interesting display.  


And then there is this side yard of a North Rustico home. 

Some lobster boats are lit up for Christmas. They speak directly to my heart, and that’s why I left them for last.


Lobster boats, strung with lights, located on the outskirts of North Rustico.


Wet maple sugar wood weighs 56 pounds per cubic foot. Gary’s two sugar maple slabs measure 9 feet x 29 inches x 4 inches each. He calculates they are approximately 400 pounds apiece—or 181 kilograms.

If you’re not Paul Bunyan, and if you don’t have an ox named Blue, how do you get a 181-kilogram sugar maple slab from the forest floor to your workshop?

First, build a tripod, and erect it over the slab.

Next, hook up a come-along and raise the slab from the ground to the height you need to swing the slab easily over a trailer’s bed.

After that, back the trailer under the slab, and lower the slab slowly, and oh-so-carefully, onto it. Make sure the slab is centred for balance.

Finally, head to your workshop, and, if necessary, use the tripod and come-along to move the slab from your trailer to a place you’ve prepared for your slab to rest—preferably not on the ground.

How do Gary’s sugar maple slabs make the final move into the workshop? I’m wondering that myself. Not through the man door! When I find out, I will post.

Plans are for a harvest table made from two nine-foot-long sugar maple slabs.

Gary cut them from an old sugar maple that collapsed last winter at Fox Hollow. My previous blog, “Gary-Made Useable Wooden Art,” shows an earlier photograph of the tree, measured and prepared for sawing.

The table, which will be 9 feet x 4 ½ feet, will seat ten very comfortably.


At least two of these thicker pieces will serve as fireplace mantels.

Gary also cut slabs from the tree that will serve as fireplace mantels. One is going to Dave’s place in New Brunswick. The other will be for a future fireplace for a planned dwelling at Fox Hollow.


Gary MacFadyen gets around Fox Hollow on an ATV tricked out with a handy toolbox.

An old sugar maple, her bark the colour of cinnamon, collapsed under the weight of last winter’s snow. Edging Fox Hollow’s meadow, she had dropped a few large branches in years previous, but last year’s 17 feet did her in.


Gary MacFadyen standing next to the fallen sugar maple.


The tape measures 32 inches where it is placed, but the widest cross-section is 36. Gary counted 120 rings, but he says some are so closely aligned only a dendro-chronologist could do an accurate reading of the old tree’s age.

She’ll take on a new life now. First, Gary will design an unique eight-inch-thick mantel for our friend Dave’s New Brunswick home. Then he will craft eclectic, artful furniture and, possibly, other diverse pieces. There will be no waste.

Our home is full of wonderful Gary-made useable wooden art. The smallest is my carved paperweight in the shape of a black bear. It is made of spruce. The largest is our log bed. It is also made of spruce, from Fox Hollow. There are also coffee and side tables, each one different.


Black bear paperweight.

He builds from wood made available by Nature, like the fallen sugar maple, but also of recycled planks, boards and beams. The shelves in my office are of recycled mahogany! And two side tables are huge chunks of a Douglas fir beam recovered from Charlottetown’s Holman building when it was refurbished.


Coffee table made from a Vancouver Island bird’s-eye maple burl that we drove across country to PEI. The base is a branch from the sugar maple, now fallen at the edge of Fox Hollow’s meadow.

The Douglas fir was headed to the dump, and it was so heavy it just about crushed Gary’s half-ton. A ring count indicates it started growing in the early 1600s. We figure it was brought to PEI in the late 1800s, after British Columbia was connected by rail to the rest of the country, and when the Holman building was first built.


Gary MacFadyen with a spruce tree root from the back-forty at Rennies Road, PEI. It will be the base of a uniquely crafted table.

Plans are that, one-day, Gary will have a large workshop at Fox Hollow, where he will continue to make collectible, and useable, treasures from wood.

The book launch for Snow Softly Falling was a couple of weeks ago, and it was standing room only. One of forty-eight Prince Edward Island authors whose stories or poems appear in this anthology, my piece is titled “Christmas Eve Debutante.”

DSC_0169 (1)

The book’s cover is lovely, but after last winter I’m not sure about snow softly falling here on Prince Edward Island!

It’s memoir, set in West Vancouver, at Midnight Mass, 1972.

Here’s a short selection:

St. Christopher’s features a gargantuan pipe organ that climbs the wall and fills the space behind the altar like a Virginia Creeper. Diminutive Miss Rochester, the organist, wears a burgundy tam with a small hawk feather held in place by a glittering silver pin. She sits on a large bench pulled up to her keyboard at the far side of the pews.

 She has been playing Christmas hymns softly, but suddenly she amplifies the sound and breaks into “All My Heart Rejoices” when a procession of black-and-white robed figures, one carrying a huge, brightly polished brass cross enters at the back of the church and makes its way up the centre aisle. Frankincense puffs out of the thurible swung side to side by the altar boy who brings up the rear.

 Chatter stops and some children who’d been sleeping like lap dogs, small collapsed lumps in the pews, wake up. The minister, carrying a gold-embossed bible, smiles at me when he reaches the altar. I am sure he wonders why I have suddenly reappeared in his church after a three-year absence, and why I’m dolled up in a Jane Austin dress like I’m at a late-eighteenth-century genteel English ball.

 When I found out in confirmation classes that the Anglican Church exists partially because Henry XIII couldn’t get a divorce from Anne Boleyn, and that he had lopped off her head, I’d decided it was a pretty sketchy beginning. So after the big day in my white dress, white wrist-length gloves, and white shoes, with the bishop of New Westminster, the purple-and-gold pointed mitre upon his head reaching halfway to heaven, I had distanced myself.

 Snow Softly Falling is edited by Richard Lemm, and published by Acorn Press.

The lane we've opened that will become the driveway into Fox Hollow.

The lane through the woods.

We’ve opened up the roadway entrance to Fox Hollow, and made a lane that arcs through the woods to the meadow. Next week, stumps and topsoil will be excavated and shale brought in. Our goal is to one day build an accessible house that is off the grid.

Uniquely shaped maple tree branches that Gary will make into lamps or side tables. He's crafty.

Uniquely shaped maple tree branches that Gary will make into lamps or side tables. He’s crafty.

One of many small wood-piles ranging the side of the drive--not nearly so perfect as Robert Frost's

One of many small wood-piles stacked to the side of the lane–not so perfect as Robert Frost’s “four by four by eight.”


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