Hirtle’s Beach

Long view of Hirtles Beach

Hirtle’s Beach, south of Lunenburg, is a popular destination year round for local residents, though it is less known to tourists than Rissers Beach or Crescent Beach.

It’s one of those beaches where the sand gets washed away for the winter and returns for the summer – soft beige sand deep enough to bury your brother in.

Fun in the sand

The waves can be big enough for fun body surfing. This is the North Atlantic and the water tends to be cold, but once in a while, warmer ocean currents will come by and surprise you. Not that these teenagers care that much.

body surfing in ocean waves

At the far end of Hirtle’s Beach is a wonderful hiking trail around Gaff Point.

Here’s some more scenery of Hirtle’s Beach featuring my brother and his dogs, Nixxy and Jake. These are Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers – yes, it’s an official breed. They are smart and fast, great agility dogs – these dogs have lots of ribbons at home.

High and Low Tide on the Noel Shore at Tenecape

One of Nova Scotia’s best kept secrets is the “Noel Shore” along the Minas Basin between the Avon River at Windsor and the mouth of the Shubenacadie near Truro. The deep clay soil supports large, lush trees, and the rolling scenery is only surpassed by stunning views of the Basin.

Recently, we were lucky to stay a week at Shore Haven, at Tenecape near Burntcoat Head. The beach is grand to explore at low tide. Such a contrast with the water lapping at the cliffs at high tide.

If high tide occurs toward the end of a sunny day, the water can actually be quite swimmable, as it gets warmed by the sand as it comes in.

I just made a video, combining images from this visit with another 4 years ago.

Nova Scotia’s Rose Vaughan goes digital

The Rose Vaughan Trio in the early 1990s.
The Rose Vaughan Trio in the early 1990s.

CBC Radio host Peter Gzowski once said, “Rose Vaughan’s songs are like Alice Munro short stories.”

High praise, given that Munro just won the Nobel Prize in Literature!

Halifax singer/songwriter Rose Vaughan has penned many iconic tunes over the decades. As a young and vibrant septuagenarian, she still performs occasionally and plans more recordings.

album2
The Trio’s second album

One of her tunes, “Stone and Sand”, from the Rose Vaughan Trio’s 1993 Fire in the Snow album, is featured in this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2e7VMqJKt4

Rose’s songs have been going around in my head lately, as well as on my DVD player, because she recently hired me to get her songs online so people could buy them digitally. 

Winter Rose album cover
The Trio’s third album

I was delighted to be asked, as I’ve known Rose since the 1990s and even played a little accordion on her Winter Rose album. Cathy Porter, a consummate musician who did most of the Trio’s arranging and has gone on to be a sought-after side performer with some of Nova Scotia’s biggest stars, also enhanced the sound of bands I was in back then – much smaller stars in the firmament, I assure you. 

Their music was part of my life in the years after I returned to Nova Scotia and before I had my family. They’re lovely human beings whom I feel privileged to know.

The Trio's first album, Sweet Tarragon
The Trio’s first album, Sweet Tarragon

Each of Rose’s songs paints a story. The music is gentle and melodic, and the lyrics thoughtful and introspective. I can’t claim to be objective because of the nostalgia factor, but I’m truly enjoying listening to the albums again.

If you like “Stone and Sand” above, I invite you to take a listen to the songs on the Artist Playlist on her Facebook page, and samples of her other songs there and on her website, where she now sells CDs and mp3s.

Rissers Beach Sand Castle Competition

The 12th annual Sand Castle Competition was held on a perfect sunny day, July 14, 2012.  Here are photos of some of the entries. The winners were the giant lobster and the pyramids.

 

Summer Days at Hirtles Beach

It’s one of the South Shore’s favourite beaches, and it was a hit with our visitors from Ontario.

Playing in the waves at Hirtles Beach

The water was cold – but no matter. We had great fun body surfing.

In August, the sand is deep enough to bury a treasure.

A big kid digging at Hirtles with a big kid's shovel, August 2011

But come back in October, and you’ll find just rocks where there had been sand.

Hirtles Beach in October 2010. Not much sand.

Make play while the sun shines.

Flying a kite on sandy Hirtles Beach, August 2011

23 Things to Love about Winter in Nova Scotia

Snowy road
Snowy road
With thanks to my Facebook friends for their contributions.

  1. The smooth, quiet brush of fresh snow under your skis.
  2. The way ice breaks and cracks over rocks as the tide falls.
  3. Empty beaches with shimmering vistas.
  4. Sea ice and rock
    Sea ice and rock, low tide
    The mildness, softness and peace a snowfall brings.
  5. Like the folks here, a winter is softness and gentility: quite well mannered, and departs when the welcome is worn.
  6. Snow days!
  7. A crackling fire in a woodstove making heat that penetrates to your bones.
  8. Walking past a buoy
    A boy and a buoy

    Walking ON the bay in places we usually row, paddle or sail.

  9. Sunlight sparkling off snow-laden branches.
  10. Minas Basin ice shifting, buckling, making strange sculptures on the shore.
  11. Magnificent bald eagles.
  12. Watching the days get longer in the coldest part of the winter.
  13. Snow on Victorian house
    Icing on the cake
    Shovelling the driveway with a helper who will clear up the last little bits: the sun.
  14. NO mosquitoes, NO blackflies, NO no-see-ums!
  15. The weather changes frequently: it’s fairly mild, and cold snaps are short, warm periods are also short.  There’s something for everyone and no time to get bored!
  16. The province is small but has a variety of microclimates.  Want more snow?  Ski hills are not so far away.  Want less snow?  Go walk a deserted South Shore beach.
  17. Ice floes
    Ice floes
  18. Memories of crazy winter antics performed when we were young and immortal: descending hills at great speed, jumping from one ice floe to another as the frozen ocean broke up (some have memories of being rescued in these situations!), “getting towed on a sled behind my dad’s car on a snow-covered gravel road, riding my bike through the streets of Halifax when the snow wasn’t too bad,” ice boating, skating on thin ice….
  19. Maple syrup made in the woods.
  20. Car in a drift
    Alone in a drift

    Patterns made by drifting snow.

  21. Winter skies unlike anything you see in the summer.
  22. Eating fresh snow.
  23. Cardinals and purple finches at the feeder.
  24. Getting insight into the life of rabbits from their tracks in the woods.

Oak leaf shape in ice
Oak leaf shape in ice
So there are some of the things we love about winter in Nova Scotia.  What are yours?  Leave a comment below.

Of right, privilege and freedom

I woke up this morning with my family aboard a sailboat at a peaceful anchorage in Mahone Bay just a couple of hours sail from home.  And shared my thoughts:  “We are so privileged to be doing this.  Not just having the boat, but to be able to sail where we want and drop the anchor where we deem best, want without paying a toll to anyone, and to enjoy this beautiful scenery so freely.”

Sunset at Covey Island, one of the islands protected by MICA.
Sunset at Covey Island, one of the islands protected by MICA.

The first settlers of Lunenburg must have been in awe at such freedom.  What we now call Germany was at the time an assortment of many principalities of various sizes.  Going down the “highway” of the river Rhine to Rotterdam, where they boarded the ship that would take them across the Atlantic, the emigrants would have been stopped at every border crossing and paid tolls.  Many of them had even needed to secure permission from their feudal lord to leave the land they were bonded to as peasants.  Once they reached Lunenburg in 1753, they must have been very appreciative of the freedom to profit from their own labour and build their future with their own hands.

Even some of the modern-day German immigrants to Nova Scotia that I know have expressed to me their appreciation of the freedom they have here in a society that is less regulated than the one they left behind.

The entire natural coastline of this island has been destroyed and replaced with a rock wall.
The entire natural coastline of this island has been destroyed and replaced with a rock wall.

The Mahone Islands Conservation Association (MICA) works to protect public access to the islands of Mahone Bay, as well as to preserve their natural environment.  The islands are increasingly under pressure by private owners and developers.  Natural shorelines and nesting habitats are disrupted (photo right).  Owners of some islands chase visitors off beaches that have long been used by the general public. (Some have been known to brandish guns in their efforts, something  that Canadians or at least Nova Scotians just don’t do.)

From what I understand, depending on the type of deed, the intertidal zone has legally remained public except in a few cases where water rights were transferred.  In a country where travel by boat was the norm, the right to land on a shore would have been an issue of public safety.  Nowadays, it seems that there is a trend for private property rights to be extended into the intertidal zone –  whether by deed, by custom, by complicity of the authorities or by ignorance by the public, I don’t know.  Enlighten me if you know anything more about this issue, please, by commenting below.

Meanwhile, I take pleasure in seeing the decendants of the original Lunenburg settlers, with names such as Meisner and Ernst,  involved in MICA, perserving public access to the islands of Mahone Bay for future generations of humans and seabirds.

Pond meets ocean at Queensland

Two solitudes?
Two solitudes?

Beyond the waves rolling into one of Queensland’s beaches on St. Margaret’s Bay, a windsurfer in a full-body wetsuit spent the afternoon learning to master his board. Meanwhile, an afternoon party rolled on at a cottage on a sheltered pond separated from the ocean by a bar of rocks and sand. Some of the guests enjoyed taking turns in a rowboat. Others swam in the warm pond.