South Shore for Haiti

Click to go to Oxfam Canada or to donate.

I was the “Dessert Queen” in Mahone Bay on Saturday night, receiving desserts people brought to the Mahone Bay Centre, sticking their names on the bottoms of the pie plates so they’d get them back later, sometimes tasting the desserts to find out what they were and if they contained nuts, slicing up cheesecake, apple strudel and blueberry pie….Nice work if you can get it?

It was a benefit for Haiti, to collect money for Oxfam’s Earthquake Emergency Relief Fund.  Oxfam has a team in Haiti permanently, so they are well positioned to get aid to people quickly.  As we have seen, speed is all important in saving lives and preventing chaos.

The little town of Mahone Bay raised $13,600 for Haiti that night.  There were soups, chili, wonderful breads, coffee, cider and desserts, all donated by individuals and businesses in the community.  There were musicians donating their talents on 2 stages, and craft tables for kids to make things to sell and to send to children in Haiti.  300 people were fed.  We wished we could have sent all that food to Haiti, but money travels lighter.

It was a terrific community building event, spearheaded and MC’d by Camelia Frieberg of Pollination Project with Valerie Hearder and Bonnie Isabelle (who did a wonderful job coordinating a busy kitchen with at least a dozen volunteers, as I can attest) the South Shore Waldorf School, Indian Point Marine Farms, Boulangerie La Vendéenne, LaHave Bakery, CafeHaus, Rumtopf Farm and many, many local folks who brought in crock pots and stock pots full of delicious chili and hearty soups and stews.

Musicians included Shalan Joudrey, Mary Knickle and HodgePodge, Paul Buchanan and Eilidh Campbell, Slow Cooking Cover, Tim Merry, Jamie Junger and friends, the Rhodenizer Family, Tom Haddal and friends, Reid Campbell, The Trips and Russ Winham and Kirk Comstock.

You can still donate to Oxfam and have it counted in the tally for the South Shore for Haiti event until Jan. 28. Here’s how: Go to, choose “Haiti Earthquake 2010” and in the Comments section enter “Event: South Shore for Haiti”. Or phone 1-800-466-9326 and ask them to note that it is for “Event: South Shore for Haiti”.

Local Living Economies and BALLE-Nova Scotia

BALLE Nova Scotia logo
BALLE Nova Scotia's logo

Here is an organization I’m proud and happy to have  joined – the Nova Scotia chapter of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies.

Which makes me wonder, as a web designer, what is my contribution to a local, sustainable green economy?

Hmm… well, there’s the commute. Most of the time, I just head downstairs to my home office. No greenhouse gasses are generated. As the downstairs is heated with a radiant floor, it’s the warmest part of the house in winter.   So that’s very efficient, but doesn’t quite qualify me as a green business – at least not until we get the planned solar panels up on the roof!

More to the point, however, my clients tend to be folks who operate independent, small (often micro) Nova Scotian businesses.  They live and work here by choice, as do many Nova Scotians.  It’s not always an easy choice.  By running a successful business, however, they are helping others to live and work here as well.  I’m happy to be part of that, and strive to contribute to their success.   Some are in tourism, some are artists and craftspeople, some are lawyers and some are builders of log and timber frame homes.

Arlington Frame Co.
Arlington Frame Company raising a timber frame in Cape Breton

The timber framers in particular are quite aware that they add value to the forest simply by using wood for something more enduring than pulp fibre.  Hardwoods such as oak and elm are prized by builders and their clients, as are large softwood trees such as pine.  The companies that drive the clearcutting of the forests would rather eliminate the hardwoods with herbicides and harvest the faster-growing softwood trees for pulp.

Timber frame homes are built to last a long time.  Their interiors are a celebration of the beauty of wood and craftsmanship.  They are usually enclosed with energy-efficient materials.  So they provide enduring value on many levels and make a solid contribution to the local living economy.

A visit to the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry in Stellarton made me realize how self-sufficient Nova Scotia used to be, from the growing of food to the manufacture of automobiles!  It is a direction we need to move towards again.  The reasons are both environmental and economic.  A secure, local food supply and lower greenhouse gas emissions are part of it.  And by supporting local businesses, we keep more money circulating in the local economy, and we all benefit.

So kudos to the people who started up BALLE-Nova Scotia for getting the balle rolling!

“Rockbound” musical a jaw-dropping production

Since we live and sail on Mahone Bay and have come to know most of its islands by sight, I read Frank Parker Day’s 1928 novel Rockbound with great interest.  I wasn’t the only one.  Thanks to CBC’s Canada Reads program, the previously obscure novel has been lionized by the Canadian literary establishment and the public.

One of the book’s biggest fans is my mother.  She has read it several times.  When I took her sailing around East Ironbound Island, the setting for the novel, the binoculars and cameras were in constant use.

If Day’s characters were as thinly disguised as his settings, it’s no wonder that the locals he met on Ironbound felt betrayed by his portrayal of hard-drinking, feuding fishing families eking out a hardscrabble living on a small island.  But they are long gone now, and new generations of readers marvel at the dramatic sweep of his story, his vivid characterizations and the detailed portrayal of pre-industrial fishing.  For me, Rockbound has made the outer islands of Mahone Bay come alive with the ghosts of those who have gone before.  Imagine rowing from Tancook to Ironbound, from Ironbound to Pearl (“Barren Island” in the novel) – well, I can’t, really, but characters that I have come to care for do just that in the novel, so I believe it is possible.

Poster for Rockbound, the musical. Click picture to visit Two Planks website.

When I heard that Two Planks and a Passion Theatre Company was developing Rockbound as a musical, I was astonished and very curious.  Written by Allen Cole and under development since 2006, it is now playing “off the grid” (outdoors) at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts, half an hour north of Wolfville.  My mother and I, both very excited, went last Wednesday.

From the opening song, my questions and doubts about how a musical format would serve the story were laid to rest.  My ears were awash in delicious sound and my jaw remained in my lap for much of the performance.  Harmonically and rhythmically complex and expressive, the music transcends genres and beautifully evokes the epic story and the setting.   The acting and singing were wonderful.  How else could this play have been done?  The music elevates the story, poeticizes it, universalizes it.

I hope to see Rockbound again when it comes to Chester Playhouse August 13-16.  Meanwhile it is playing until August 9 at Ross Creek.  Not to be missed.

Maple syrup video

A friend just put together this video about “The Story of Maple Syrup”. I contributed a particular photo at the end of the video. A note: the light amber grade of maple syrup may be considered the finest, but I prefer the darker stuff – more flavour, and no doubt more of those nutritious minerals they mention.

First sign of spring: maple syrup!

Just about the most authentic, old-fashioned maple syrup operation you could ever find is Mountain Maple in the Annapolis Valley, just outside of Wolfville.  Perry and Judi Munro are typical of Nova Scotian back-to-the-landers in that they decide first that they want to live here, and then figure out how they’re going to make a living, and they don’t get too specialized.  Besides the maple syrup operation, they make art, sculpture, baskets, they guide hunters and fishers and have a vacation rental on the lake.  Check out this video, then visit Perry Munro’s website to see what all they’re up to.

Lobster season starts in southwest Nova Scotia

After what will surely be remembered as the great November snowstorm of 2008, I went for a walk this morning in crystalline -8 degrees(C).  From Crandall Point I looked out on the still waters of Mahone Bay, the open ocean behind, and counted six boats between Oak Island and Tancook.  I thought of our sailboat, now snug and dry, and marveled at the fishermen who brave such cold. But it’s the first day of lobster season, too important a day to stay home if you have traps to set.