15 November 2008

Mid November Randomness

So I've been amongst the missing again, but with good reason. With surgery day approaching in December, I've been madly working on articles and other projects (you know, the kind of writing that pays the bills) and haven't had much free time for anything else. I DID get all my bulbs planted except for 20 alliums and 12 pink narcissus, and if the rain and fog stops this weekend I'll get those in. So that's about a month and a half earlier than last year. But last year we had snow on Remembrance Day (Nov 11) and then the ground froze hard and stayed that way until Christmas Eve. So definitely a better autumn this year. 

So what do these photos have to do anything? Well, one of my projects this year is through Writers in the Schools, administered by the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia, or Ma Fed as we call her. So I get to go around to a number of schools and give workshops on writing to kids of all ages. Though I have to say, sometimes I'm not sure who learns more, the students or me. They're awesome. Anyway, this week I was at a school in the city, and then for a total juxtaposition, at two rural schools on the Digby Neck islands. You travel on a 3-5 minute ferry ride to each island. First stop is Long Island, which you reach by ferry Petit Princess, seen here on the mainland side preparing to load. Yes, at a rather ungodly hour, at least for this night owl. And did I mention it was a 2 1/2 hour drive to get THIS far? Thank heavens for Tim Hortons coffee and a good stereo system in my car. 

But I had to take two ferries first off, because my first port of call was at Westport School on Brier Island. This was the coolest school, because it holds exactly 16 students in two classes; Primary, 1, and 2 in one class, and grades 3-6 in the other. I hadn't seen a small school like this in many, many years, and I loved it; could have happily stayed there all day. But life on islands can be run by ferry schedules, so once my workshops were done there I was back to the ferry and back to Long Islands to the Consolidated school there. A much larger school with 140 students in grades from Primary to 12. I had a great time at both schools, and apparently, (most of) the kids I was with did too. 

The villages on both islands are based on a fishing and ecotourism economy; during the summer, there are numerous whale watching expeditions, but also hiking, kayaking and other outdoor activities. The fishing is mostly for lobster, but some probably hold scallop and groundfish licenses too. The lobster season starts in less than two weeks, but it's a bit nervewracking this year because prices to fishermen are way, way down, while expenses are up. The stock market quakes in our country and our dear US neighbour have caused havoc in more ways than in mortgages, believe me. (But hey, at least our American friends have an awesome new president-elect, while we got stuck with that loser Harper again after our election. Maybe the Yes-We-Can optimism of the US will flood our way...congratulations, you guys!)

Once I was done at the schools, I worked my way more slowly up Digby Neck, back on the mainland, to do some research for upcoming assignments. I was concerned to see a number of homes for sale both on the Islands and back on the mainland...and some that are not for sale but are simply abandoned to the elements. Sad, troubling and downright scary.

In Sandy Cove, there's an air of anxiety at the wharf, as the fishermen prepare for season's opening, rather than the usual anticipatory excitement that usually surrounds Dumping Day. The only truly happy individual I saw on this wharf was a small beagle-like dog, who came racing across from the baithouses to follow this boat's progress as it came in around the wharf. Maybe the dog's owner was running the boat, or maybe the dog was just a happy mascot for the harbour. 

As you can see, fishing is a huge part of the southwest part of the province. This is a view of just one part of the big harbour at Meteghan, one of the Acadian communities in the municipality of Clare. A big boatbuilding industry is located in this stunningly beautiful community, as well as the fishing fleet. Come the last Monday of November, there will scarcely be a vessel to be seen, at least until the traps are all set.  

My destination was my friend Flora's home, as illness has kept me from visiting since late spring. Now we're into late autumn, but Flora's garden is always a plethora of joyous colour, even after the gales of November have scoured the leaves from trees and turned most perennials to mush. 

I say "MOST" perennials, because there were still some interesting flowers to see, including this defiantly budding and flowering campanula. 

And this Christmas rose decided to come early, maybe aping the merchants and advertisers who want to shove Christmas down our throats as soon as Halloween is (barely) past us. 

One of my favourite clematis (and my friend's too) is Sweet Autumn, here down to its seedheads but still gracefully pretty. 

And the gay foliage of euonymus is always a delight to the eye, but never moreso when there are berries to add an extra element of colour to the shrubs. 

Now, if you want colour...this is a banner, BANNER year for winterberry or Canada Holly (Ilex verticillata). I know I've sung odes of adoration to this particular native shrub before, and I will at every opportunity, because it's such an awesome plant. Like other ilex species, it's dioecious, and it was obviously a banner year for pollination because the female plants all along the Neck and the French shore are absolutely burdened with berries. And big ones too, though my friend tells me it was quite dry at times in her community, despite being on the shore. Had I known, I'd have gladly sent down some of our fog and rain! Anyway, the shot above is from the road outside Meteghan; there are quite literally thousands of acres of undeveloped land along the shores, and they are covered in Canada holly, wild roses, alders, grasses, and other plants, and currently are ablaze with the fiery reds and oranges of the winterberries. This is good news for the birds who overwinter; I saw a large flock of robins in one thicket of female winterberries, stuffing themselves on the fruit, which surprised me a bit as they usually go for worms, etc. 

And finally, on my way back home yesterday, I stopped at one of my favourite beaches in the province, at Mavillette. It was chilly and windy yesterday so I didn't walk on the beach or poke around on the dune, merely smelled the salt air and listened to waves and wind in the grasses. And was happy even on a grey November Day. 


  1. Hi Jodi! I enjoyed reading about your adventures and getting a mini garden tour too. How amazing to see the hellebores even *before* Christmas. And my goodness, that expanse of winterberry holly is simply stunning. Your posts on the fall color extravaganza up your way were a treat too. Thanks for sharing, and good luck getting your work done.

  2. How lucky your students are to enjoy a piece of you, dear Jodi, as we are to hear from you again. So enjoyed your stunning photos and catching up on your many adventures. Stay well until December when, hopefully, you will again feel your 'old' spunky self! (not old ... meaning elderly ... but meaning 'previous' self :) Bloggin' hugs! (Knew you would enjoy all the punctuation junk)

  3. I wouldn't mind if my Christmas Roses bloomed now. They never seem to bloom much before Easter. I love the shot of the Winterberries. I've never seen such a cluster of them, it's a very cheery sight on a gray day.

  4. It's a gray day here, too, Jodi, and that Canada holly is certainly a welcome spot of brightness! Enjoyed reading about your travels to different areas and the workshops you gave. As a former English teacher, I'm sure that the students enjoyed your visit. They always learn more from someone who is doing "real writing."

    Good luck on your upcoming surgery. I hope that you will keep us up to date on how things are going.

  5. I was just thinking about you today Jodi. I was wondering if you had had your surgery since we haven't heard much from you lately. This lovely post answers my question.

    Love those holly berries. I am sure the birds won't leave them long. I don't think I have seen such a huge patch of them before.

    Working with children can be very rewarding. You sure have to travel a long way to do it though. The scenes you have presented to us are beautiful.

  6. That winterberry is spectacular! What fun to see those island schools and teach some writing workshops. Looks like we're both having surgery in December. Good luck and a speedy recovery to you!

  7. What a fascinating post, it makes me want to come over there for m holidays. It looks a lovely place to live, although I can imagine its hard to make a living

  8. Jodi .. every time I read one of your posts like this .. my heart does a little flip .. I miss NS and the sea terribly at times, even though I have been away for so many years (ok .. something spooky just happened .. our power went out .. I'm sitting at the kitchen table aka my "office" and the only thing on was my lap top in the darkness .. weird .. now the power is on again.
    Sorry .. got off track but that was STRANGE !
    Yes .. seeing a Helebore this time of year : ) .. and all of those amazing zings of RED !
    I'm wishing you very good luck with the surgery .. as little pain as possible (make sure they give you the BIG grown up pain meds girl !) haha

  9. Oh my goodness, how gorgeous are those winterberries??? Such a beautiful shade of red. With each post, you just make me want to plan a visit sometime! Such a unique location you live in - charming!

    I'll be praying for a successful surgery, Jodi.

  10. That is quite the drive!
    You made the journey and this lovely area come alive for me.
    I am impressed with your friends garden even this late in the season things of beauty to see.

  11. An interesting post with some great pictures. Hope all goes well. Best wishes from Brittany France.

  12. hi jodi, great post, great photos! beautiful bleakness this time of year, isn't it? i also like winterberry and have a coupla them. the birds eat the berries so quickly that we only get to enjoy them for a short time.

  13. Jodi, so good to hear from you. What an interesting project and how fun to be able to give writing workshops at the schools. I imagine those young people learned a lot from you, And of course you from them. I know you are probably used to travelng by ferry, but oh that sounds wondeful. To be able to relax and watch the water instead of dodging careless drivers. Loved all the scenery and shots of the fishing ports. I do hope economics improve up here as well as down here. Take care and let us know how you are doing.

  14. Hi Jodi, so good to catch up with your doings and to hear of the timing for your surgery. We will be wishing a quick recovery. Oh to be a student at one of those schools where you spoke. Especially the small one, what a thorough education one would receive there. I had never seen the winterberries in the wild. Wowee! I have six various females and two males. It is a good berry year this year.

  15. What a beautiful day, jodi -- I love that part of the western shore. I've never been to Marvillette, though my daughter has while doing some work with DNR on Brier Island. But I've spent some time at the Meteghan ambulance base way back when. :) Marvillette will be on the itinerary for next trip that way. Those winterberry plants are spectacular!

  16. Jodi ~ Thank you for sharing such a special and varied November day. What an array of winterberry and beautiful shots of the journey, waterfront, islands and gardens... love that spunky Campanula, overly anxious Helleborus and berried Euonymus.

    It must be so rewarding to work with those budding writers... Deb

  17. Thanks for taking us along on this little tour, Jodi. We saw a lot of abandoned fishing boats in Newfoundland last summer, too. It's a dreadful thing.

    I'll be thinking of you as surgery day draws near. Good luck getting the bill-paying writing done!


  18. Hi Jodi, I'm so sad to hear that your are not well I certainly hope that the surgery goes well, good luck with that. Most lovely post you have here Jodi, really nice to come along with you. At a quick glance those Ilex verticillata berries almost looks like a field with poppies. / Tyra

  19. Jodi, What a day! I was reminded of my single year teaching on the Maine coast. We loved being near the water - and all those fresh fish. One of my 6th grade students was totally uninterested in school, but over the year from his 'daily free writing' I learned a lot about his family's life as fisher people.

  20. Lovely post Jodi. made me want to be there.

    I shall have my fingers crossed for you from now until we here that the surgery was successful.

  21. I adore this random post. The photos give us a slice of life there, but my hands-down favorite shot is of the field of winterberries! I have one winterberry that's currently bent over from the weight of extraordinarily large berries. The ilex decidua and gold berried possumhaw are the same. Must Take Photos. Great post.


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