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!


Old Man Luedecke explains why he lives here

Singer-songwriter and banjo player Chris Luedecke is not really old, but he’s definitely a cultural treasure in Nova Scotia. His songs have a charm and maturity that belie his relative youth.

Here he and his wife, potter Teresa Bergen, explains how and why they got here:

New power poles and our carbon footprint

Nova Scotia Power is bringing the power lines that march through the woods out to the road.

The lines will be easier to repair if they go down in a storm. And some waterfront properties will no longer have lines spoiling their view.

So we’re getting new power poles.

Nova Scotia Power workers and new power poles

Poles made from a variety of wood species are used. Some come from quite a distance. Near the water they put cedar from the west coast. Further inland they use creosote-treated pine from down the Eastern Seaboard where pine grows taller, straighter and faster. They also use Douglas Fir. Apparently the Nova Scotian pine that was once prized for masts of sailing ships by the Royal Navy is no longer good enough.

Something else to add to our carbon footprint.

“Why can’t they just bury the power lines?” you might ask. The answer, as for many questions about rural Nova Scotia, lies in the low population density. It just costs too much for the number of people who live here. So lines criss-crossing the road are just a fact of life in rural areas. We might as well embrace them, even photographically, like the fog!

The same factors that make Nova Scotia a wonderful place to live also determine its limitations. C’est la vie.

The Tattoo: See it at least once

French motorcycle team, bagpipe bands, in the Tattoo finale


That was my 11-year-old’s assessment of the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo which he saw for the first time on Friday.

“What is it?” he kept asking before we went. “It’s … a show,” I said, inadequately.

It’s hard to describe the Tattoo; if you haven’t seen it, I’ll refer you to its own website, which says it is “the world’s largest indoor show…. featuring over 2,000 world-class Canadian and international military and civilian performers … a fast-paced, two-and-a-half hour family show featuring music, dance, acrobatics, drama and comedy in a number of innovative acts.”

Bands to the rafters and the choir during the finale

Originally modeled on the Edinburgh Tattoo in Scotland, the Nova Scotia Tattoo was first staged in 1979 and featured primarily military acts.

Over the years, many civilian acts have been added, including guest performers from all over the world.

In common with the military marching bands and demonstrations of physical prowess, virtually all the acts involved precision teamwork.

Estonian roller skaters pose for photos after the show

We saw a fabulous precision roller skating team from Estonia, the French Guarde Républicaine motorcycle ballet, a German gym wheel team, and of course, Scottish Highland Dancers from Nova Scotia and from Australia. The latter group mixed the traditional strict forms of Highland Dance with tribal rhythms and modern innovations, which I found intriguing, having grown up partly in Antigonish where many kids took Highland Dance lessons.

The highest level of millisecond exactness was displayed by an all-female New Zealand drill team.

Talentholdet's innovative rope skipping

The loosest group was the Danish gymnastic troupe Talentholdet whose playful exuberance contrasted refreshingly with the strict discipline of the other acts while performing jaw-dropping feats of tumbling.

Even the tightest military bands had their comic routines to keep us entertained.

Musically, it was impressive that the many brass bands, the bagpipe bands, the choir and the soloists, spread across the width of the Metro Centre, could play in ensemble (almost all the time) – another testament to discipline and talent. Quite the sound!

Notably most of the civilian performers were female – dance troupes in particular, and while there were many women in the military bands, you had to look closely to distinguish them in their uniforms.

The show has a strong vein of patriotism and support for the troops, in their current mission of training the Afghan army now that Canada’s combat role has ended. Included in the honours are police, firefighters, emergency medical services and other first responders who “serve and protect”.

Altogether, the Tattoo is a huge community effort supported by many volunteers. The audience contained people from every province in Canada and many from the USA.

It’s a show that just about everyone should experience at least once.

Doers and Dreamers 2011 is ready

Doers and Dreamers 2011 cover
Doers and Dreamers 2011

Planning a trip to Nova Scotia this year?  Live in Nova Scotia and plan to vacation in another part of the province?

The new Doers and Dreamers, the province’s flagship travel guide, is ready.

So are other guides such as the 2011 Motorcycle Tour Guide, the Halifax Guide, and Taste of Nova Scotia.

Check them out on the provincial tourism site. They’ll send them to you free.

Even if you travel for business, Doers and Dreamers is handy to have.

Summer Day Camps at the South Shore Waldorf School

Children dance with butterfly wings at the South Shore Waldorf School. Click photo to visit camp descriptions.

Looking for activities for your creative kid(s) this summer?  Maybe you’ll be visiting Nova Scotia and would like something special for the children to do while you’re on the South Shore visiting Mahone Bay, Lunenburg, Chester, LaHave, Rissers Beach etc.

Every summer, a group of creative artists, theatre folk and teachers have been hosting Day Camps at the South Shore Waldorf School in Blockhouse, near Mahone Bay.  For little ones aged 3-7 there is the “Morning Glory” program, and for an older age group, variously 4-12, there is “Summer Arts“, including a week for early teens aged 12-15 in August.   You can attend for just a day or for a week at a time.  Programs and teachers change from week to week, so check out the program.

The school is in a beautiful, natural setting with fields, woods, swings and other play structures, and an enclosed play area for little ones.  The school itself is a beautiful old building with lots of character, polished by 100 years of little hands and footsteps.  A new annex has expanded the school’s capacity to provide art and nature based education in the Waldorf tradition.

Tourists are very welcome at the Day Camps.  Some of the teachers speak German or French.

A winter drive in Lunenburg Co.

Let me take you for a drive after a snowfall.

Highway 103
Heading west, past Mahone Bay, on Highway 103
Cornwall Road
Turn north at Blockhouse onto the Cornwall Road
Mushamush River
Along the Mushamush River in Middle New Cornwall
Crossroad Farm
Turn left at Crossroad Farm in Upper New Cornwall. It's for sale, by the way.
Cross Road
West on Cross Road
House on Cross Road
Another house
Along Cross Road
Further along Cross Road, heading west
sign covered in snow.
Which way now? Can't read the sign. Keep to the left.
Farm on Cross Road
Upper Northfield churches
Ah, here we are, at Upper Northfield.

All photos taken on Thursday, January 21, on my way to Pinehurst, just west of Upper Northfield.

The long drive to Upper Canada

Road through New Brunswick
The highway through New Brunswick has been greatly improved.

Some take it in stride; others would rather fly. The train is rather nice. I took the bus once – never again. But many, perhaps most, Nova Scotians have done the long drive between Nova Scotia and Ontario (once called Upper Canada) or Quebec (formerly Lower Canada) at least once. Many have gone “down the road” to seek their fortunes and return to Nova Scotia for holidays. Others make the trip regularly, in one direction or the other, with kids in tow.

But doing it in winter? Is it crazy?

We did just that for our Christmas holidays. It certainly is a bit of an adventure. The roads have been improved in recent years, but it’s still necessary to prepare for the unexpected.

Church in Batiscan, Quebec
Church in Batiscan, Quebec

The new toll highway through the Cobequid Pass in northern NS, which shortens the trip, was closed for 14 hours overnight a couple of years ago during a snowstorm. Imagine a family travelling in a car getting stuck for that period of time. My sister was once delayed for 3 days in northern New Brunswick, in the snow belt between Fredericton and Rivière-du-loup, with her dog. You also have to deal with heavy truck traffic, constantly spraying your windshield and dictating your speed.

The alternative, flying, is iffy too, if your goal is to be “home for Christmas” as I learned by experience years ago. Flights are often delayed by weather, and it is an expensive time of year to fly, especially for a family.

Man driving
The long drive: just relax and enter the Zone.

So we got our VW diesel Jetta into excellent running order, checked the snow tires, packed provisions and entertainment in case we were delayed en route and had to tuck into a motel for a few days, carried bedding for warmth in case we were stranded by the side of the road, packed extra motor oil and wiper fluid, and even a spare battery, just in case.

Long distance sailors say that if you want to meet up with them, they can promise you a time or a place, but not both. A long winter driving trip is a bit like that. Most of the time, the roads are fine. So we kept our fingers crossed, while preparing for whatever would be thrown our way.

We were lucky this time, with smooth sailing all the way. If we’d returned home one day earlier or later, we’d have found ourselves in a blizzard.

Trees, and a sign saying Nature's Air Filters
Nature's air filters stand on guard for us the day after a blizzard hit New Brunswick.
Best Western Hotel pool, Edmundston
Out of the water slide and into the pool at top speed, at the Edmundston Best Western Hotel, a great reward for kids after a long drive.

Edmundston, New Brunswick, is a good overnight stopping place for those who aren’t inclined to drive straight through the night. Several hotels cater to people traveling through. Sitting in the hot tub at the Best Western, I chatted with other Nova Scotians, heading either east or west, while our kids enjoyed the water slide. I felt part of a special club of hardy pilgrims keeping alive our family ties and connections to “home”.

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.

Novice gardener with deep roots

My Danish grandfather at 83, cheerfully digging up a nice lawn to grow vegetables.
My Danish grandfather at 83, cheerfully digging up a nice lawn to grow vegetables.

I consider myself a novice gardener with a strong inclination – even compulsion – to dig and plant. It’s got to be genetic.

Both my grandfathers grew things for a living.  They were European immigrants to Canada in the 1920s, and, well, that’s what you did in those days.  One died too soon from the effects of farm chemicals.  The other carried his passion long into retirement, and tore up a Dartmouth backyard into a huge vegetable garden which my father inherited and dutifully maintained.

My dad checking out the new pile of manure
My dad checking out the new pile of manure

I now have my grandfather’s rototiller and hand tools, and his elderly son still takes a keen interest, although he’s too feeble now to dig.

My mother and her (second) husband grow a showpiece garden in Mahone Bay. It’s her passion. Her other passion is flower arranging and decorating, an obvious match for gardening. Oh – and photography. I can’t wait until she gets her blog going!

Two coneflowers: Rudbeckia and Echinaecea. Photo J. Maginley
Two coneflowers: Rudbeckia and Echinaecea. Photo J. Maginley

I’ve lived in many places and worked in other people’s gardens, and am glad to finally have my own.

Rising fuel prices suggest that learning to grow your own food and building up the fertility of your own soil are good things to do.  I feel I have a lot of learning to do as I build the soil.  I cannot claim the competence that my grandparents have, and as long as I build websites for a living, my learning is limited by my time.

Flowers and photo by my mother, June Maginley

However, gardening is the perfect antidote to sitting in front of a computer. So I will surely continue to grow as a gardener. My parents are still around to give advice, if I will take it, and my grandparents are smiling down on me. Stay tuned.