Rock Barra Retreat was the gathering place for a workshop yesterday about Prince Edward Island seaplants. Led by Island scholar Dr. Irené Novaczek, workshop members collected seaplants from the shore, learned about the history of the seaplant industry, how to prepare dishes using seaplants, and the nutritional and medicinal values of some of the seaplants that were gathered.

The day was gorgeous, and workshop participants headed to the beach to collect seaplants right away. After half an hour walking the shore and gathering seaplants, participants found a rock ledge that was perfect to display what they had found. They arranged the seaplants they had collected into three groupings according to the seaplants’ colours: green, red, or brown. Then Dr. Novaczek discussed each seaplant in the collection.

The photographs above  show three types of edible seaplants found by workshop participants: (left to right) dulse, Irish moss, and kelp.

Back at Rock Barra Retreat, participants received yet more instruction regarding seaplants, including how to prepare tasty dishes. My favourite is toasted dulse. That’s it in the cast iron frying pan above. It’s easy to prepare: just toss dried dulse with sesame or olive oil and toast it in a hot pan. It’s absolutely delicious, and it’s good for your thyroid, too.

Gary took a slab off the sugar maple at Fox Hollow that was crushed by 17 feet of snow in winter 2015. He fashioned it into a coffee table with legs from the same tree.

Because he knew the slab would check and crack, he cut it in half before stowing it in the basement to dry.

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An over 1 inch gap opened between the two halves. Gary did straight cuts on the two halves and joined them together using biscuits. After sanding the surface, he finished it with clear coat.

I’m pretty sure this piece of Gary-made useable wooden art is destined to be a prezzie for a lucky family member.

The Prince Edward Island Writers’ Guild, this town is small, and Peake Street Studios worked collaboratively on Island Poems 2, a poetry/visual art show displayed at the Charlottetown Market for the past couple of months. The show went up as part of Reading Week.

Island Poems 2 signage

First, there was a call for poems. These had to be about PEI and of the 5-line variety. I wrote a tanka, “Going for a Dip,” and it was one of 6 selected for the show.

Tanka is a Japanese form. The 1st and 3rd lines have 5 syllables each. Lines 2, 4, and 5 have 7.

 

Going for a Dip

North Rustico Beach—

Granular grit between toes,

Pipers flit, gulls bob,

Dunes, grasses, and red-rock cliffs,

Salt tang—sea sighs, slip in now.

 

Next, visual artists selected, and responded visually, to one of the 6 selected poems. Cindy Lapeña and Monica Lacey responded to mine.

Cindy’s piece, “Must Take a Dip,” is acrylic on canvas. Monica’s series of 3 digital images, “the water,” is printed on cotton paper.

Island Poems 2 was a fun venture that got writers and visual artists together. Hats off to the organizers!

Recycled wharf timbers?

Gary is building a greenhouse this summer out of recycled materials, and these recycled wharf timbers will serve as the foundation. He located them over Miscouche way and trailered them to Fox Hollow. The greenhouse will be primarily for food production.

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Recycled wharf timbers that will serve as the foundation of Fox Hollow’s greenhouse. Wild strawberry flowers in foreground.

Last winter, Gary and Graeme built birdhouses for tree swallows and black-capped chickadees, and we erected them at Fox Hollow. (See my March 7th blog, “Fox Hollow Birdhouses.”)

A recent visit to Fox Hollow revealed tree swallow nesting activity, one house occupied, and chattering/chittering tree swallows on the wing. They are a talkative species!

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Currently occupied by nesting tree swallows.

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Nesting material deposited in an unoccupied birdhouse.

We’ve got the remnants of a Northern Hardwood Forest here on Prince Edward Island. Heavy timbering in the past for shipbuilding, house building, firewood, and export has left the forest a shadow of its former self.

As an example, there are no towering Eastern White Pines because White Pine made the best masts for wooden tall ships of bygone days. If White Pine masts didn’t grace Island-built ships, they were transported to Newfoundland or England for use in shipbuilding industries in those territories.

Enough crying into my early morning coffee about razed lands of the past. Knowing about past environmental degradation is actually a hopeful place to be in this day and age. Claiming this knowledge, we can work in the present for a better future.

Here’s some hopefulness: Pink Lady’s Slippers and Blue-bead Lilies in Fox Hollow woods. Oh, and, yes, we saw wild bees in the woods, too. Wonderful.

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Pink Lady’s Slipper in Fox Hollow woods. A type of orchid, these plants like the acidic soils of Northern Hardwood Forests.

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Pink Lady’s Slipper.

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Blue-bead Lilies in Fox Hollow woods. In the fall, these plants will be covered with blue-tinged seeds. Hence their name, Blue-bead.

My sister Brenda Hewer and I are delighted to learn that The Canadian Children’s Book Centre selected our first self-published book, When the Circus Comes to Town and Other Stories, for inclusion in Best Books for Kids & Teens, Spring 2016.

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My sister Brenda Hewer does the design and layout, and I write the stories. Artwork for When the Circus Comes to Town and Other Stories is by Deb Borsos.

When the Circus Comes to Town and Other Stories is set in Kaslo, a small West Kootenay town situated on North Kootenay Lake, British Columbia. Thirteen-year-old Tess, the heroine, lands in a pickle in each of four related short stories.

The eldest daughter of a financially struggling single mother, Tess has no money, but she does have a business plan to change her lot in life—and, who knows, she might even appear on the David Letterman Show!

Reviews on amazon.com and amazon.ca have been excellent. One reviewer writes: “The pace of the storytelling is brisk and lively. The stuff about carting off the llama, pony and camel poop is a real hoot. And young readers, if you want to earn a few bucks pay close attention to how to set up a worm farm. Those ‘red wigglers’ will earn you some real coin.”

When the Circus Comes to Town and Other Stories is suitable for eleven to thirteen-year-old readers. It is available at Amazon in both print and eBook format.

If you’d like, visit us at www.sisterspublishing.com.

White lightning is PEI shine.

It’s featured in Maud Anchütz’s memoir piece, “White Lightning,” one of 28 selections comprising TWiG’s (The Writers in Group) most recent anthology, White Lightning and other stories from The Writers in Group.

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Cover photograph by TWiG member Paul Vreeland.

The work of 17 authors is included in White Lightning. Eighteen of the pieces are memoir, and 10 are fiction.

I’ve got two pieces in the anthology. “War” is a memoir piece set in early 1960s West Vancouver, where I grew up. “Pig Fight” is short fiction inspired by Mary Prince’s slave narrative The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave, Related by Herself.

I’m in my sixth year of a PhD program at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, and Mary Prince is the historical actor I am researching. Last year, I won an Island Literary Award in the fiction category for “Pig Fight.”

White Lightning is edited by TWiG member Bruce McCallum, and published by Selkirk Stories, a PEI publisher. It is available at Amazon in both print and eBook format.

Gary and Graeme built birdhouses for tree swallows and black-capped chickadees this winter, and we erected them at Fox Hollow recently.

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Graeme Mckague building tree swallow houses in the workshop.

Catching their food on the wing, tree swallows like an open setting, and they are territorial birds. We spaced their houses 100 feet apart on metal fence posts in the meadow. They should get along with the neighbours and be clear of predators there.

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Gary MacFadyen erecting one of eight tree swallow houses at Fox Hollow.

Black-capped chickadees prefer to live at the edge of meadows, just inside the woods where sunlight dapples. We’ve seen them bathe in the brook at the edge of the wood, their wings sending water droplets through the air like cascading diamonds.

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Gary MacFadyen erecting black-capped chickadee houses at Fox Hollow.

Black-caps are even more territorial than tree swallows. We spaced their houses 650 feet apart. Three black-cap houses are placed in the woods a few paces from the brook. Three more are inside the wood’s edge farther up the meadow.

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Black-cap house with Gary’s “best-of-PEI” outhouse in the background. The outhouse features an oak seat, oak panelling, a faux stained glass window, and a Dutch–or double-hung–door.

Now we wait for spring, nest building, and the joy of bird families making our lives a whole lot more pleasant.