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Early observations of Nova Scotia.

Wäsche an der Wäscheleine

Everyone has gardens.

Everyone has clotheslines.

The grass is so green.  Like crazy, shockingly green.  I don’t know what they do here, but Miracle Gro dreams of making lawns that green.

We’ve been soaking up our new province as we drive around (so far our opinions of the culture are mostly based on the view from the road).  I’m in love with it.  It reminds me very much of my childhood province, Newfoundland, yet contrasts very much with majestic, dynamic British Columbia, where I lived 20+ years.  The trees here are so very small.  But there are lots and lots of them.

Everyone has a box with a hinged lid for garbage at the end of their drive.  About the size of a chest freezer.  Sometimes the box IS a chest freezer.  Some boxes are fancier than others.

Mari-time seems to move a bit slower.  That’s not like Kootenay time, which just means everyone’s invariably late for any appointment and that’s kinda ok.  Mari-time just means people act like there’s enough time.  Always enough time for chatting, and moving without rushing.  I notice that while plenty of people drive the ubiquitous Canadian 10-over, plenty of people also drive 10-under, which is much more unusual to me.  That’s me these days, 10-under, rubbernecking gardens and the farmhouse architecture.  There just seems to be enough time, and that means enough time to not drive like a maniac.

When we were here a month ago and hitchhiked to Halifax I asked our driver for his advice to new residents.  He happened to be a 15-over guy but still he said “Slow down.  This isn’t Ontario.  Relax.”

People pile up a lot of firewood.

I get a general impression of self-reliance and resourcefulness.

There seems to be a higher percentage of older people.  Or maybe they’re just visible, because they’re outside.  Gardening, and raking, and building decks, and digging, and rummaging in sheds.  Looking healthy and moving sure and steady.  It feels good to have all that knowledge around.

H.W. was wondering why everyone has clotheslines (really, everyone has a clothesline, tidily strung with clothes; the first thing our neighbour insisted on giving us was a coil of clothesline); was it the wind?  I said well maybe it’s the economy and money-consciousness.  It makes sense to put clothes out when a dryer costs money.  I mean, of course it always makes sense to use a clothesline, but where people are wealthier the convenience may win over sense?  He burst out “Yeah, people do what makes sense here.  They have clotheslines, they have gardens, and they recycle.  We’re in the land of sense.”  which about sums it up.

My friend in Utah with a masters in civil engineering told me that Nova Scotia’s (and Edmonton’s and Scandinavia’s) waste management system is the envy of the world.  I believe it.  I remember being blown away by the local transfer station in 2010, with its meticulous required sorting.  One of the first things we noticed driving into Nova Scotia was the separated waste bin at Subway – compost, recyclable, trash.  Nothing generated by a Subway meal would go in the trash.  That and the driver who needlessly stopped for us to jaywalk made H.W. say “we live where there’s nice people, who recycle!” And then at Canadian Tire, and the gas station, and every public trash can anywhere – at least three slots.  Sometimes a fourth, for paper (which otherwise goes in the compost).  I really want to know how this province arrived at such a progressive, pervasive, successful operation.  Where did the political will come from?

At any rate, I’m so grateful to be here and love everything I see.

Photo from bartergreen.org

First week

IMGP6613
We’re here!

The ecstasy is setting in.  We deliberately planned to spend several days NOT zeroing in on any projects (very tough to do-required a strong intention), just arriving, adjusting, recalibrating, and observing.    We didn’t want to barge in with ideas and impose them on the property, but to plan with and around what presented itself here.  So we walk around looking at stuff and talking about it, and making many lists.

The place is crowded with life of all kinds- birds and rabbits and squirrels and chipmunks and porcupines and owls and hawks and snakes and coyotes and bald eagles and maybe a lost or feral tabby cat.  It’s a little awing.  Everywhere one steps or moves someone might already live there or be using the territory.  I feel awkward moving in, like excuse me, mind if we just budge in here?

Besides the tumbledown structures, everywhere there’s work to be done, work to balance and assist and improve the ecology.  Lots of areas in the forest are choked with one type of tree, the fruit trees are struggling in overgrowth, and piles of debris are cluttering up corridors.  There’s a ton of work.

IMGP6598H.W. can’t resist some manual labour, so he’s started to take apart the collapsed barn and also haul rock in the wheelbarrow from the nearby mine site gravel pile to reinforce our access road/“driveway”.  I dug out a rotten culvert and built it up and “bridged” it with big stones so it will endure being driven over without further collapse.

Also he’s been exploring on bicycle in all directions from the former rail trail and unmaintained road that form two of our boundaries.  He’s over the moon-ecstatic about the possibilities, and the wildlife.  In all directions, woods and wetlands and animals, and adventures.  So he’s off on his bike every evening, happier than I’ve ever seen him.

The air is incredible -truly fresh (as H.W. says, “the tress just made this oxygen”), and .  The weather has been lovely- the beginning of summer, with days full of warm sun, smatterings of rain.  Some days clouds are constantly coming and going overhead, but they keep it moving.  The trees are just popping leaves and buds.

IMGP6612Our sleep pattern has adjusted so quickly.  Seems instant.   Asleep at dark, awake at light.  Amazing how fast it happens without artificial light.

The change in me has come on fast!  I feel relaxed, I feel safe, my energy is returning, and that knowing that everything is working out the way it should and is right and whatever happens is right and ok – that’s back.   It’s been gone for so long.  My headaches are decreasing and my skin’s improved- everything feels better.   Like plants.  Slow if you sit to watch them grow, miraculous if you watch them over a few days.

We’re home.

We are here!

IMGP6538We are here!

A few days after my 40th birthday we finally arrived at our Nova Scotia property, to stay.

The waiting and preparing and working towards is over; we are here.

I was oddly shaky the night we arrived, trembling, and exhausted, as though I was burning out at the end of a marathon (which I don’t know anything about firsthand, but I’ve seen pictures of braver people that evoke how I felt). Every day and week up until now, work got done, list items were eliminated, bureaucratic necessities coped with, so that, arriving- a final hurdle, means that one list of have-to-dos has become very short, and another project is about to be begin. A new list is about to be written. But this time, it’s all part of something that we believe in, that we want to do and have dreamed into being already.

We are ready to be here. The relief is very big. It doesn’t flip like a switch, though, from distress to joy. Our bodies ease us through transitions, unfolding slowly into new states of being. Not unlike plants.

First snow!

I've been terrible at pictures lately.  Technology: frustrating.

The first snow stuck today- a beautiful white carpet that makes even the broken overturned wheelbarrow look picturesque.  It’s always a surprise, the first time you glance outside and the view through the window is white instead of browns and greens.  Its not cold enough for the ground to be frozen underneath the snow so footprints squish through, and the snow is just light enough to make little caps on the top of the shovel handles and car antenna.

I got the camper tucked in in the nick of time.  Am I ready for winter?  Well, outside, I’m happy enough.  There’s some wood to be bucked up and a pile of boards I should have brought in, but mostly I’ve cleaned up everything that I will be unhappy to see poking out of the slush in the springtime.  Inside, well, hmmm.  No woodstove yet although the excessively expensive chimney bits are all sitting there ready to go.  Two windows that should really be done, ditto on the materials sitting there waiting.  But it’s not too cold yet.  I miss my cat.  If she were still alive I’d HAVE to move faster, because she wouldn’t stand for these conditions.

Snow tires- now there I’m seriously behind.  After this weekend, I’m going to have to have them to drive, and I do not.  I’m hoping to get Green Diamond Tires (patented in Iceland!  I’m so excited about these tires!!!) but no one has heard of them here and I have to do more research to see if I can make them appear here for me.

I sense a crusade coming.  I foresee putting my truck on blocks and taking the tires away to get changed just when the tire shop guys are starting to brush off their hands and take deep breaths at the end of the winter tire rush.  Me and  all the other procrastinators.

Look at this place we live

This photo is from deeper in the winter, not this particular fall day

Last night I was talking with a favorite elderly friend of mine who described his philosophy of life as “answering the call when it came”.   He described three literal phone calls that determined the direction of his life, but he was also talking about the call of the heart, that made him, for instance, choose his wife.

It made me think about how my life has arrived at this point.  I never expected to live on the East Shore.  The whole structure of my life is different now because of one phone call.  Mogi: “There’s this house. I want you to look at it with me”.

And I love it so much.  I would never have anticipated being so happy here, in this place, on this land, on the Riondel VFD, on the Kootenay Bay ferry almost every day and sleeping at the feet of some of Canada’s most beautiful forested mountains.

Today I was driving along the lake in an autumn slant of light that was escaping from the press of grey lumpy clouds to either side, and the bright orange leaves half on the trees and half strewn on the road everywhere contrasting with the pale white powdered alpine.  The snow line hasn’t come down to touch us yet, so the snow world is still visiting with the red and gold world.

Packrats, meet your doom!

That didn’t take long.  One week of coexistence, and the packrats must go.  The key letter in that decision is the “s”.  I distinctly heard two packrats at work in separate locations, and where there’s two, well, the problem is about to be fruitful and multiply.

I got a live trap, and Omega-3 and his girlfriend are about to be relocated.  I’m going to take them out on a firewood trip and release them, and to be extra nice, I’m going to bag up all the cardboard and grape leaves they’ve been gathering and bring that along too, to give them a head start on their new lives in the woods.  It is starting to get cold; I understand their motivation.

They really haven’t been a problem yet, except for the noise.  I can’t believe something so small can make such a racket.  Although, they probably feel the same about me in the daytime.  Could you cut it out with the air nailer over there?  We’re trying to sleep here!  Big night ahead of us.

All is well at home

Sliding back into life and business as usual at home.  Iceland is receding into my semi-relevant history, at least for everyone else.  “Hey, you’ve been away for a while, right?  Where?  How was that?”, as though I can sum it up in a few words and we can get on to what’s at hand.

For me it remains visceral and present.  Iceland changed me, and part of me remains there.  All day I’m thinking of the horses and the lava and opening my eyes in the morning to sky.  Iceland, Iceland, Iceland!  Like thinking of blue cars makes them appear, I see connections to Iceland all the time now in places I would never have noticed before.

At home it’s getting colder and more motivating to get the barn sealed up.  I have a pet packrat now and firewood to cut and it’s time to make money.  Worst of all, I have no Internet!  Bell’s Turbostick has utterly failed me, so posting posts is a terrible ordeal…

Barns and bats and rats, oh my!

I came home to a dismal, depressing scene of neglect and destruction, no cat, and a frustrating mountain of work.

It could have been worse, but still, it was enough to make me weep.  Hours of cleaning and a long therapeutic session of cleaning the paddock restored my space and my sense of hope, but the mountain of work remains ahead.

I think I have a packrat.  It ate my rice cakes, made half of a sheepskin vanish, and appeared to be subsisting on flax seed.  Clearly, it cares about nutrition. I did not find it’s abode, but I’m sure it’s very well lined.  My cat would roll over in her grave, if she had one, at this home invasion.

The other cats clearly need to be encouraged to exercise their feline instincts around the barn.  They’ve been hanging around, but they’re not used to me around too.  When I came “home” after dinner last night, I scared one cat so bad he fled out the second story window, and I don’t know if he leapt straight out or if he climbed down the outside wall, the way he seems to get in.

I had a choppy sleep, too, waking up often to the sound of scrabbling, and trying with my flashlight to catch a glimpse of the invader, whom I’m calling “Omega-3”.  I’m really not into it running across my face in the night or something- that would be entirely too “country” an experience for me.

Doors; windows; lock-up:  Urgent!

Happily, I still have bats roosting in the other side of the barn.  I’m glad the reno has not totally dislocated them. Build bat house- on list.

Back in BC

My milk run flight back home bounced up and down off the major cities like a ping pong ball.  Three takeoffs and landings; enough to make one sick.

It’s nice to fly over BC’s green-carpeted mountains and remember that I love this place. So much wilderness, so close. And Vancouver doesn’t look so badass from the air, just squeaked into the flat space of the river delta where the mountains shrug aside.

All the verdant abundance we have here, this surfeit of trees and resources and adventure, makes me wonder why Iceland took such a hold on me in comparison.  Just look at the gorgeous Keremeos valley, a pastoral landscape and serene photo ops like many we just saw.  In this whole country, we have so much more than little Iceland, about the size of Newfoundland, does.

All I can say is that there’s something about Iceland that defies description or definition that exists only there, and I can hear it calling me back…

Complete story of my Iceland adventures

Battle of the Broom

Haven't reached this part of the hill
The hillside behind the house is infested with Scotch Broom, an invasive introduced species that has spread all over BC, by the looks of it.  We’re determined it’s not going to have this hillside, and we are waging war.  Every week or so, one of us spends a few hours yanking shoots and snipping the fibrous thick stalks.  This is nasty bent-back Sisyphean work, that ends when you stop, scratched, bitten, dirty, aching and itching, rather than when the job is done, because this job cannot be finished.  Even after a systematic back and forth scouring, invariably you look back and there’s a few bright yellow flowers mocking you.

Our idea is that if the broom is never allowed to go to seed from flower, then it will lose one mechanism of reproducing itself, and perhaps other plants will gain dominance, and after a few years, optimistically, there will be no more broom.  Too bad the stalks sprout like Medusa’s head when cut off, and the thready white roots are knotted like bathtub plug chains with rhizomes.  I assume it reproduces like grass from the root, and divides like a tree from pruning, in addition to the explosive seedpods, that twist and spray out their evil spawn.  Acres of broom in the hot fall absolutely rustle with the snapping of seedpods.

Even the shortest of sprigs can produce flowers, and they seem to do so a day or two after an attack.  I suspect rather like dandelions, they flower prematurely when stressed or aware of stress in their fellows via root system connection, determined as they are to conquer all.  So we work along, ripping out anything yellow, chopping down anything so big it can’t be uprooted.  Always more, the most endless task.

And what a workout.  I always end up with my hair and shirt drenched with sweat, all exposed skin red and stinging from allergenic plants.  Temporarily satisfying.

Et voila

She’s planted.  I had to turn the whole thing by hand once more, to decompress any areas smushed by my walking around on it during tilling, then raked it all out.  It’s so pretty!  I’m very proud.  I took the picture before mulching it, because I think it’s not as presentable after mulching.  I really like the “earthy palette” of brown smoothed dirt with the tender green of seedlings.  Mulch just makes the whole thing look like an unusually well groomed haystack.

Lettuce starts were totally psychological.  “Oh look, its as though something’s already growing.”  Tomato starts were necessary.  Mine are too late and spindly to finish this summer and will end up in the greenhouse.  Putting something in    that’s already above ground makes it feel like a real garden.

It feels so late in the year, but when I got my potatoes in the ground the day before the market gardener on the next road who’s lived here for 40 years, well, I can’t be that far wrong.

Mulching.  So satisfying in one way, tucking in the vulnerable dirt to conserve its moisture and making little nests around the tiny sunflower seedlings that will become wrist-sized  stalks.  On the other hand, it’s an awful lot of hay to move, and it’s not esthetically pleasing.

Popular wisdom says not to use only straw and never hay for mulching, because it’s full of seeds.  Mogi says that if feed hay has gone to seed, then it has no nutritional value, so it’s always mowed and baled before it goes to seed.  I’m looking at:  buy straw, or use the giant, growing pile of dry, yellowing reject hay that Mucky has eaten what he wanted of and left to dry on the ground.  It’s practically in unlimited supply, all this quality mulch.  There are some seeds in it.  I can see them.  What I’m more worried about is introducing moulds or mildews, but there’s one way to find out.  Time will tell.

In other news I had a rather dazzlingly productive day, from 6am to 7pm.  I would’ve kept going- I’ve proved it only gets too dark to see in the garden at 10pm – but for the UFC fight.  I was on way too much of a tear to bother with any before pictures, but I’m systematically working my way through the  todo list in the order of how much they drive me crazy, rather than how important they are.  Thus I’m transporting rubble, dismantling poorly designed fences and reframing gates that have bad feng shui before getting the squashes into their patch.

I just couldn’t do it any other way.  Every glance at that absurd garden gate tilting over at a completely charmless 20 degree angle the way it’s probably stood for ten years fills me with a bilious, primal drive to change it, and tearing the whole thing down gives me an inner smile of peace that is far more satisfying than the squash plot.  The pumpkins have to wait,  that’s all there is to it.