I admit it—I posted this because of the photograph of Sir John A. MacDonald’s statue, which is picturesquely dressed in rural attire for Charlottetown’s Farm Day in the City. Sir John A. was a Father of Confederation and the first Prime Minister of Canada, elected in 1867.

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Victoria Row statue of Sir John A. MacDonald dressed for Charlottetown’s Farm Day in the City.

Farm Day in the City is the largest outdoor market of the year on Prince Edward Island. Thousands attend. Although the market spreads out to include several city blocks, Farm Day in the City is centered in the Victoria Row and Confederation Plaza area of Charlottetown.

Province House, a Canadian National Historic Site, is the heart of the Confederation Plaza. This is where the Charlottetown Conference took place, September 1 – 7, 1864. The Charlottetown Conference led to Canadian Confederation, and Sir John A. was in attendance.

The statue of Sir John A. is at the Queen Street entrance to Victoria Row, about a block from Province House. By placing Sir John A.’s statue on the public bench, his character comes forward from history right into the crowd.

Dressing Sir John A.’s statue in rural attire tells a lot about Prince Edward Islanders. Fun loving, Islanders are far from stuffy. Gleefully snapping photos of friends and acquaintances perched on the bench next to the statue, nobody seemed concerned that this representation of Sir John A. might taint his memory.

Affectionately, the hens that lay the eggs my family eats are called “the girls.” They live down the road in a huge chicken coop that is a sectioned off part of a barn.

Unless it is a wintry day and far too cold for hens to go outside, the hens spend hours everyday scratching through their yard to find and gobble down seeds, bugs, and juicy worms.

Technology entered the scene—and the hens’ lives—last summer. Their old chicken coop door was replaced with a modern electric door with a timer. Nostalgically, their old door still has a wee sign over it that says “The Girls.”

The new door opens every morning at the same time, and, likewise, closes at precisely the same time in the evening. You can see the hens charging out the door when it first opens in the photograph above. By this time of day—about 11 am—they have already laid their eggs.

Horses, cows, and an opinionated donkey share the barn with the hens. The donkey stars in an annual Christmas pageant held at a nearby church. She plays herself, a donkey, in the manger.

In many ways, I see the bucolic lives of these hens, and the other farm animals who share the barn with them, mirrored in favourite childhood works of fiction—perhaps especially Beatrix Potter’s stories of rabbits, squirrels, kittens and other wonderful creatures.

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Once upon a time, there were several lovely brown hens called “the girls.” They lived down the road at Melodye’s in a spacious chicken coop that was part of a very large barn . . . .

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.