Arctic Kiwi Male and Female Flowers

I have a male and a female Actinidia kolomikta (one of a couple of species of Arctic Kiwi that grow in our climate) in bloom. A male plant is needed to fertilize the blossoms of the female plants, and they both make flowers. I was curious to learn how to tell the flowers apart.

Easy, as it turns out, once you look. The female flower has white stigmas and styles that radiate from the center. The male flower has yellow stamens dangling from thin filaments.

When I first saw the variegated foliage, I thought it was diseased! But no, it has splashes of white and even pink. A most attractive plant. Some people even grow the male plants only, just for the foliage. But the fruits are delicious, grape-sized little kiwis. You don’t need to peel them as the skin is smooth. They taste just like the larger variety that you can buy in the grocery store. They will fall off the vine when they get really ripe and sweet, so it probably pays to harvest them a bit early and let them ripen in a bowl.

Spring at last, and salad

It was getting hard to believe that spring would ever come. There is a collective weariness of snowstorm after snowstorm. Finally, however, the force of the entire planet tilting on its axis, turning the north pole toward the sun, will overcome all obstacles and we will really have spring! Crocuses have been sighted. The spinach I planted in a coldframe last month has sprouted. The first salad of spring, culled from coldframes and a mini hoop tunnel, appeared on our supper table yesterday. The snow is almost gone from the yard.

Don’t visit Nova Scotia in March and April. Go to Europe or Vancouver instead, where the daffodils have long faded and the grass is green. Come here in May! You may fall in love.

salad in bowl
From the coldframes: lettuce, green onion, chervil, claytonia (miners lettuce) and fresh dandelion greens

The Juan-a-be Storm of the Year

8 years after Hurricane Juan, Point Pleasant Park still looked ragged.
8 years after Hurricane Juan, Point Pleasant Park still looked ragged in 2011.

In September 2003, Hurricane Juan swept through Nova Scotia like a giant chainsaw, wreaking havoc from Halifax’s Point Pleasant Park, inland across the province, all the way to PEI.

White-Juan_0083
After White Juan in Kentville. We had a lot of fun digging out.

Five months later, in February 2004, a “weather bomb” dumped a metre of snow on Nova Scotia and was unofficially named White Juan after the previous season’s hurricane. It paralyzed much of the province for several days as citizens dug out.

Rendering of the storm at 6 pm on March 26, showing wind direction and barometric pressure, from http://earth.nullschool.net/
Rendering of the storm off Nova Scotia at 6 pm on March 26, showing wind direction and barometric pressure, from http://earth.nullschool.net/

Today’s nor’easter has been unofficially dubbed “Juan-a-be”. Meteorologists apparently learned a lot from White Juan, and had this storm pegged to be a similarly serious weather event far in advance. Apparently all their computer models were pointing to the same story; that a low pressure system would form off Cape Hatteras and move up the coast, walloping Nova Scotia with wind, snow, rain and then more snow.

And so it has come to pass. One can only marvel at the science that can predict such things. Everyone was talking about the storm for days. We took it for granted that school would be cancelled. The bread shelves in the grocery store were emptied by shoppers preparing for power outages. All day, my Facebook feed was mostly about the storm, with people staying connected to each other even while isolated by impassible drifts.

The snow came sideways, starting this morning and continuing all day. It continues to blow even harder, having backed to the north, though less snow is falling.

The joke is that most of our winter storms this year have happened on Wednesdays!
Most of our winter storms this year have happened on Wednesdays!

In the late afternoon, at high tide, I made an excursion down the road to see what damage the storm surge might cause. The snow stung my face and the wind bent me over as I trudged along. In sections sheltered by evergreens on both sides of the road, the snow lay quiet and even, untouched by blade of plough or rubber tire. Elsewhere, the wind had swept the road bare.

Approaching the Oak Island causeway, I saw that the storm surge would not damage the road, even though the water level was high, because there was still ice along the shore which buffered the energy of the waves. The northeast winds did not travel far across water and did not raise high enough waves to do damage here.

But I can only imagine what is happening on the Northumberland shore.

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.

Breaking the Back of Winter

It has been a long, cold, tough winter in Nova Scotia.

But now it’s time to Break the Back of Winter – a warrior’s act of vengeance and liberation. An epic tale of perseverance and cunning.

winter1

Our enemy: a treacherous layer of ice up to 2″ (5 cm) thick that invaded everything a couple of months ago, malingering on this shady slope long after fleeing from sunnier areas.  If we wait for it to melt, slipping tires and feet will continue to result in casualties on our side. So we must attack.

winter2

Our weapons: shovels, scrapers and a teenage warrior wielding a crowbar. Our key ally: the strengthening March sun, as it heats up the black asphalt even when the air temperature remains below freezing. Our strategy: observe and hold back until alternating melts and freezes have detached the ice from the surface. Then study the enemy’s weaknesses and reclaim swaths of territory, chunk by chunk.

Victory is finally ours when our beachheads join and we reclaim safe passage for our troops. Hurrah!

winter3

Winter lockdown, winter gardening

Icy inlet
Dawn on January 24, 2014, near Western Shore

It has been a cold winter, except when it thawed of course, as it usually does once in January before the snow locks us in again.

garden in January
Jan. 15: Coldframes, hardy strawberry plants toughing it out, and double-covered greens

The snow we had in December, which made us happy at Christmas, had melted completely by January 15, exposing the coldframes and mini hoop houses in my garden.

lettuce in January
Lettuce  ‘Merveille de quatre saisons’

Peeling off the layers of plastic and row cover on the mini hoop house showed that there was lettuce within, still looking perky after the deep freeze.

No wonder; its name is “Merveille de quatre saisons” – which you could translate as “Four-Season Wonder”.

If you pick your plants well, plant them at the right time, and shelter them adequately, you can indeed eat from the garden year round.

Niki Jabbour, who lives and gardens not far from me, and also has a radio show on gardening, has written a wonderful guide to year-round gardening (left). It is inspiring many people like me to expect more from our gardens.

When the hoops are iced up, however, and the coldframes piled high with snow, I yearn for a greenhouse.

 

 

Bluenose II sitting pretty in Lunenburg

The newly rebuilt Bluenose II sits at Lunenburg Foundry at the innermost part of the harbour. Sails and rigging make the job seem complete from a distance, though I’m sure there’s lots going on below decks. She’s a beauty.

Bluenose II
Bluenose II at Lunenburg Foundry, October 24, 2013.
Photo by Heather Holm

 

Segway PT tours coming to Oak Island!

Wynand and Max segwaying their way down the road from the causeway to Oak Island
Wynand and Max segwaying their way down the road from the causeway to Oak Island

It’s an unusual site almost anywhere.

When we spotted two Segway PTs on the road to Oak Island, dodging the dodgy potholes, we had to find out what’s going on.

It was Wynand “Dutch” Baerken who runs the Kayak Shack over at the Atlantica Hotel and Marina Oak Island, and Max from Segway Nova Scotia.

Wynand was sporting the sleek street Segway model while Max was roadtesting the fat-tired all-terrain version, complete with racey fenders. The knobby tires give an advantage on rough roads, but there’s a sacrifice in range compared to the street model of these electric-powered standup vehicles.

Heather on a Segway in 2005

I tried out a Segway some years ago in PEI (left). While it was fun, I wondered where it would find its market. It’s slower than a bicycle and faster than walking, and usually I want the exercise.

Wynand pointed out that he goes back and forth between the Kayak Shack and the Hotel many times a day, and a Segway would be more convenient than a bicycle and save walking time.

Large airports and warehouses are other places where a Segway doesn’t go fast enough to cause accidents but can increase efficiency.

Furthermore, you can wear it with anything, though high heels might handicap your ability to maneuver it.

The Kayak Shack will be offering guided Segway tours this summer! From the hotel, which overlooks Oak Island, the rail trail leads nicely to Crandall Road which is 1.4 km long and ends at the Oak Island causeway. Tours of Oak Island itself may happen, but the view at the causeway provides a great destination itself.

So I expect to see groups of these quiet vehicles humming down our road this summer. They’re quiet enough that you can have a conversation, so we’ll hear the voices before we hear the hum.

Here’s a little video illustrating that effect. You can even hear the birds!

 

“There’s lots of room here to be different”

Talking to people who are drawn to live on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, I find it interesting to learn about what attracts them here.

Living in Nova Scotia is a choice, whether you come from “away” or  have your roots in the province.

I often buy meat from Kevin Veinot at local farmers’ markets. His farm has been in his family for seven generations. Yet he too has made a conscious choice to live here, and to farm sustainably.

As he says in this video, “There’s lots of room here to be different.”