25 February 2008

The windy watery gardening world of bloomingwriter

It wouldn’t be very good if the person who thunk up the Garden Bloggers Geography Project didn’t take part too, would it? You have til Friday to get your 'homework' link to me!

Welcome to Nova Scotia—specifically, Kings County, Nova Scotia, part of the Annapolis Valley. You’ll notice just slightly to the right of that green line I drew is Windsor, where fellow blogger Nancy of Soliloquy lives.
Like any Valley, ours is formed in between two mountains, in this case the North and South mountains. The North Mountain protects the Valley from the upper Bay of Fundy, where are found the world’s highest tides, although the Canadian Hydrographic Services tells us that it’s a tidal tie between those in Ungava Bay, way up north, and our Minas Basin.

If you look at the map, you’ll see a little peninsula that sticks out, like an appendix, into the upper Bay—into the Minas Channel, actually. That’s the end of North Mountain, including Cape Blomidon on one side of the peninsula, Cape Split at the terminus, and Scotts Bay in the bowl of the peninsula.

Cape Blomidon is a brooding promontory that plows a furrow out into the Minas Basin, looking across at the Five Islands and the Parrsboro shore. It’s also where the great Mi’k maq god Kluscap, or Glooscap, sleeps. I have my own theory that the mountain’s great positive power comes from the fact that Kluscap is here with us. Incidentally, Kluscap formed the Five Islands by throwing chunks of Blomidon at Beaver, who was bothering him. Or was it Raven?

At the tip of the peninsula is Cape Split, a spectacular set of basaltic sea stacks and the terminus of a very popular hiking trail. The peninsula sticks out into the Minas Channel, and twice daily, there’s a snorting good riptide that goes charging around that, as racing tidal waters come up the bay, spill into the bowl of Scotts Bay, then go screaming out around the Split and up into Minas Basin. There are times when it’s ‘flat-ass calm’ out around the Split…

But twice daily, it’s rather different. Whirlpools, eddies, dancing water…and that’s even without the wind blowing. The devil apparently surfs out there, or so my spouse’s cousins reported when they had a bad day of it out lobstering one fall season a few years back.

I’ve mentioned the wind a time or two…it comes screeching up out of the Bay and hits us quite well on our high hill looking down at the Bay and the Split, but on the other hand, we don’t have many black flies or mosquitos. And plants that do well here are sturdy species, although we have microzones around the house and barn. We're up high enough away from the water--about a mile as the crow flies--that we don't get a lot of salt spray in our yard. But we do get wind.

Down in the Valley, the tides affect life in a different way. There are numerous tidal rivers in the Valley, including the Habitant, Cornwallis, Canard, and Pereaux Rivers just between the mountain and Wolfville, 20 minutes from us. Alongside these rivers you’ll see a series of dykes, holding back the sea and the tidal rivers, and reclaiming thousands of acres of fertile land. Here’s an explanation of the dykes and the aboiteaux created by les Acadiens and later New England planters:

Acadian agriculture
French colonists eagerly settled the shores of the Annapolis Basin in the decades following establishment of the fortified "Habitation" at Port Royal in 1605. They quickly recognized the rich agricultural potential of the large tracts of salt marsh, if only the sea could somehow be held at bay. Some among them were familiar with the dyking techniques used for reclaiming marshland in Europe, and they soon set about building comparable dykes to extend their newly acquired lowlands. The first such dyking was undertaken near Port Royal between 1635 and 1640. These were earthen structures about 1.5 metres high, veneered on both sides with sods of salt grass to hold the soil in place. Water inside could drain out through large wooden pipes ("aboiteaux") extending through the base of the dyke and usually placed in existing creek beds. These were fitted with a simple, ingenious wooden flap valve opening to seaward to allow water to drain out at low tide, but closing tightly as the tide rose, preventing intrusion of seawater. Within a few years, rain and melting snow leached out most of the salt. The thick layers of fertile alluvial soil thus reclaimed were rich in inorganic and organic nutrients. One agricultural engineer termed these dykelands "a reserve of energy in the form of fertility".

Here’s a bit of a demonstration. On the left is the wall of the Wellington Dyke, curving away towards the horizon ; that white expanse is a large field owned by a local farmer.

And this is on the other side of the road—a small, wellbehaved looking river winding through more fields, right?

Not exactly. If it weren’t for the aboiteau under the road--granted, a more sophisticated sluiceway than the wooden ones created by Les Acadiens--and the dykewall, everything would be underwater. This shot is just a 180 degree turn from that one. Granted, we were at about high water when I took this, and we’re having a high run of tides the past few days, but you get the picture—all this would be underwater were it not for the system of dykes between the Valley and the Bay of Fundy. (This one protects over 3000 acres from the sea water). They’ve held, too, since 1869 and the Saxby Gale. Let’s hope they continue to hold—the Dept of Agriculture keeps them well maintained.

Now we’re back up on my mountain, at the Lookoff, which looks down on the Valley. Actually, you can see five counties from here—Cumberland, Colchester, Hants, Kings and Annapolis—and much of what you can see in this photo would be underwater, were it not for the dykes.

As the name suggests, the Annapolis Valley is a prime area for agriculture, especially apples, but also poultry, dairy, mixed vegetables, some grain, and other types of farming. A big employer is Acadia University in Wolfville, one of my two alma maters (alma materae?); another is 14 Wing Greenwood, an air force base where my father was once stationed before I was born. There’s a lot of tourism through here in the summer, including to Scotts Bay to hike to Cape Split. But I just ignore all that and do my thing. We're about twenty minutes from Wolfville, and several other towns, 8 minutes from the village of Canning, ninety minutes from downtown Halifax, and that's plenty close enough for me. I couldn't live in town, in a city, in a subdivision or near nosy, covenant-building 'neighbours' who think up new laws to restrict people every other Wednesday. That's the reclusive writer in me, though.

I figured something out one day not long ago. My longsuffering spouse is a retired lobster fisherman, and the sea is in his blood. He’s always referred to this side of the house as the front, yet it faces away from the road, and out into the back garden, the pasture and woods…and the Bay.

Which really IS our front yard…when LSS gets up in the morning, he goes to one of the upstairs windows that look out on the water, and has a look. Every morning, no matter what the weather. He says, “I have to make eye contact with the water before I can get on with my day.”

And I understand that perfectly.


  1. Jodi, what a beautiful post. Your photos brought back many wonderful memories to me. When I was a child my Uncle was the cook at the Hedley House in Sunset Smith's Cove on the Bay of Fundy. We visited him a number of times.

    Now he lives in Wedgeport outside Yarmouth and I've sent my youngest daughter up several times to stay with his family. It's such a different world, up there she can run around with other children, free all day, never checking in with adults, swimming off docks, walking to the ice-cream stand. I'm so happy she's been able to have such a wonderful experience.

    Thanks for the memories!

  2. What an idyllic place to live. Just beautiful. So we have until Friday to get our posts in? LOL, not sure I can make it but I'll be thinking about it.

  3. Excellent. Now I can picture where you live and garden. It seems like an untouched seaside retreat, and yea for no covenants, I could not live under those conditions either. Your house and garden are so beautiful, thanks for the full shot. You can give yourself an A++.

    Frances at Faire Garden

  4. That is a beautiful post. My first thoughts were: another place I must see. Then I realised how alike our areas are - reclaimed, fertile, windy and at the mercy of the sea!
    I am going to print your post out and read it again, and I am sure, again and again!

  5. This post is great - like entire idea of GBGP :)
    What a great place you live. So close to the sea - I love it.

    I just noticed on one of the pictures, that your terrace/porch looks like that I have in mind for my house :) is there more picture of it in your blog? I have not seen.

  6. Jodi, it was interesting to read about the place where you live and garden.I've been feeling sorry for you this winter, but now that I've seen where you live, I know why you put up with the conditions. It is truly a lovely place.

  7. You've got to love a place called Wolfville! I'm trying to get my husband to take us to Nova Scotia this summer. His father's family is from the east coast there. From his family's pictures & your blog, it appears that all the coastal areas of Nova Scotia are just beautiful.

  8. How absolutely beautiful. You definitely get an A+ for this assignment. It looks like a place one would never have to venture far from because it seems to be so idyllic. I can now picture you sitting in at your desk looking over the valley letting your mind float the wind blowing ideas around, keeping you inspired.

  9. HI Jodi, I am reading your post while eating lunch seating in my desk at work and all I can say is, I envy you what a great place to live and garden. I agree with you city living is not us gardeners.

  10. What an absolutely beautiful place to live. Your garden is lovely too!

  11. Thanks for letting us read this post - it was so interesting, especially since I've never been to your part of the world. And it seems to be such a nice place! So close to the sea and all that nature surrounding you..
    This whole idea of sending posts from our parts of the world - it's just great! Thanks. /Katarina

  12. To live near such beauty!! What a lovely place you have. You should post a picture of the "back" of your house sometime. Love your gardens.

  13. Jodi, do you have rooms for rent or need summer help? ;-) I just love how it looks there.

  14. Oh, what a lovely place you live in! Atlantic Canada has been on my list of places to visit for a long time. One of these days....

  15. Absolutely beautiful. You are very blessed!

  16. Thanks for the story of your home, Jodi. Have you lived here all your life? If I woke up to a view of the sea every morning, I don't think I'd ever want to leave.

  17. Hi Jodi,

    It's incredibly beautiful there. Amazing, really. But you must be awfully hearty folk to endure the crushing cold. Maryland seems positively warm by comparison, I suppose.

    I'm always amazed at how people in climates colder than mind can endure. Maryland seems a positive wasteland sometimes.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  18. I actually had a feeling you lived in that type of environment. You write like someone who lives in a very serene area. It makes me even more appreciative of ever word cause I can picture you writing it. I like to know these kinds of details. It makes it more real.

  19. Jodi: What a great tour of your locale! I have yet to make it to Nova Scotia. My husband's family is from there. I will have to find out what area! Serene and beautiful and your writing concerning living in 'town' or the 'burbs' echoes my own. Give me the quiet, uninterrupted peacefulness of country living!

  20. What a perfect spot. I'm with LSS - I'm much better off after a gaze at the water - I covet your easy view. I haven't been to "Moan dada Scotia" since I was a kid (that's what I called it at age 2 or 3ish - or was I 27?) and I'm pulled even more now to go back. Can I come by for a cuppa?

  21. I think I enjoy your posts of home more than those about your gardens. Your area is a fasinating place and I learn a bit more each time you mention it. It's good to learn NS isn't the bleak place one might imagine by just looking at a map.

  22. Wow. I repeat, wow.

    Like you guys, our "front yard" is actually the back of the house but it faces that lake and river and that's what drew us here. Glancing at the water every day is a must for my soul. Excellent post - I learned a lot about your world. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Wow! Your post makes me want to get even further out. You are very lucky to live in such a beautiful place.

  24. Awesome. I am not keen on the cold part anymore, but the view is spectacular. We are considering moving out of the city and into the countryside, and I can't wait to have a big garden again even if I won't be able to have the same plants here.

  25. Well, Well, Jodi that would be A**

    That was a very interesting post! You have now got me interested in looking at the work of your class now :-D

    I have been a tad late for everything this month with my colour post for GGW Design Workshop only going up late last night. However, I have been thinking about joining you but I don’t really want to give the location of my garden away. I will think about how I can work around this and see if I have time to grab some photos. I’ll see what I can do but it would prob be Friday now :-D

  26. Thank you for a great post. And thank you for the whole geography thing. It means so much more to me when I read someone's blog to now their surroundings!

    Yours is truly a beautiful world!

  27. Okay Jodi - admit it... you started the whole geography project just so you could slay us with this post!

    As someone who's always lived in "the middle" in a semi-urban setting, your life seems like something from a book to me - the kind of beautiful place where one goes on vacation.

    I loved learning about the dykes - thanks for this post!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  28. I've learned more about Nova Scotia from your post than I ever learned in school! Very interesting, and so different from our low desert. I've enjoyed all the posts I've seen so far in the geography project. It was a great idea!

  29. The geography project was a great idea, but your geography lesson was the best ever. I can't decide whether I liked the pictures best, or the accompanying text.
    Thanks for all of it.

  30. I'm afraid I won't get to submit for your project, but I'm sure it will be interesting. Keep up the nice work!

  31. Thanks for taking us on a geography tour of your neck of the woods. Ive learned a great deal from your post.

  32. Jodi.....that was a fine synopsis of the valley area of our fair province.

  33. You've painted a beautiful picture of your area Jodi. The winters may be tough to endure, but it's obvious that you love the place! Thanks for giving us such an interesting tour of your little corner of the world.
    I used to live near the ocean in Australia, and can totally understand your husband's observation :) I miss that peaceful blue expanse, but the country here is gorgeous too. There's beauty everywhere if we learn to appreciate it, right?

  34. Jodi I love your corner of the world! I was recently working on a project having to do with St. Pierre and Miquelon. I'd love to visit someday. Yes, the need to be close to water is something I feel actutely. When we first moved to the PNW I felt like a sponge just sucking up the sight, smell, feel of water. Thank you so much for your challenge. Doing the homework assignment was fun but checking out everybody else's homework is even more fun!

  35. How beautiful - what a fun journey! Thank you. I must say that I agree with your husband. I first moved to the ocean 14 years ago, and I can't imagine not being able to see, or reach, or touch it easily. I have an ink drawing of a pirate that has a blue line drawn on his wall, with a quote that says something like 'a pirate always needs the sea in his horizon' (or something like that - it's packed up, and has been for a few months).

    All of it is just beautiful.

  36. Oh, to garden by the sea! That's a lovely place where you live and garden. Thanks for sharing it with us. I'm looking forward now to seeing the wrap up post with all the participants.

    Thanks again for starting this great project.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  37. Thank you again for the great project, and for your own description of a place so far removed from my own!

  38. Hello Jodi,

    You have a beautiful blog -- I'm drooling over the photographs of your orchids as I type this! Thank you for sharing such loveliness with us all.

    I'm popping by because Kerri of colorsofthegarden.blogspot asked me to drop you a link of a geography post I wrote over the weekend. I was inspired by her post for your challenge, not realizing it was a challenge, and thoguht I'd take the inspiration and run with it. If you'd like to see it and/or add it to your list of "geography lessons," you're welcome to it, although I don't hold you to any obligation!

    Post is here: http://www.slenderbranches.com/2008/03/home-should-be-where-heart-is.html

    Have a lovely evening,

  39. A beautiful post, Jodi. I had just joined Blotanical so did not see this ... thanks for pointing us back into your wonderful world. (I'm surprised you weren't bombarded with visitors after writing this)!


Thank you for visiting and for taking the time to comment! It might take me a bit, but I will return the compliment whenever possible.
Spammers--need not apply. Because I delete your comments and they will never make it here. Kthxbai!

Search Bloomingwriter

Custom Search