Archive for the ‘Nova Scotia’ Category

goodbye, old house   no comments

Posted at 11:13 am in future,Nova Scotia,Round Hill house

sunset to the west as seen from the kitchen windows

If you’ve dropped by my blog recently, you may have found that it disappeared for a couple of days. The server that I use had some kind of problem that caused many websites to malfunction. My blogs happened to be among those with difficulties. Almost everything seems to be back to normal, except that comments aren’t showing on the most recent post. It will be interesting to see if anyone will be able to leave a comment to this post. Please feel free to make an attempt.

Having left Nova Scotia on Monday, I am now back in Ontario. The dogs and I spent the night at Fundy National Park, then drove the rest of the way to Ottawa on Tuesday. This week, I’ve been taking care of various tasks and getting repairs and maintenance done on the van. Also, I’ve been making the rounds of stores as I replace some of the gear that has taken a beating over two long seasons of camping.

west wall and old kitchen window lit by the warmth of a sunset – and Sage gazes out at me

It was surprisingly difficult to say goodbye to the old house. I haven’t written about this on my blog, but when I first arrived at the house in late April, I picked up some very odd vibes. Now, I’m not really one to talk about such things, but this house definitely gave off some weird vibrations. The only way I can really define it is that there was something extremely hostile and perhaps even malevolent about the place. I sensed those feelings the first moment I walked through the door. As the house was in quite a state upon my arrival, I slept in my van for the first three or four weeks. By day, the house seemed fairly innocuous, but late in the night, with the moonlight shining upon the stark, weathered siding, and the empty black windows like gaping cavities, there was an undeniable eeriness about the place. Mostly, I just shrugged it off and attributed the hostility as an expression of architectural grumpiness over having been badly neglected for many years. After a few weeks of cleaning, repairs and painting, the house began to seem friendlier and more welcoming. As summer drew to a close and it came time to leave, I felt a little sorry for the old place. Last thing before leaving, I stood in the front hall, looking in toward the heart of the house and spoke loudly, “Goodbye, House. I’m leaving for the winter, but I will return in the spring to continue working on you.”

east wall and a little of the old kitchen – Sage out in the back garden

So, what has been accomplished this year?

I can be a little hard on myself when it comes to achieving goals. In retrospect, I had unrealistic expectations for what could be accomplished in one short summer season. However, it does feel like a lot happened over the summer. Much of the exterior siding has been repaired and painted. Most of the downstairs was painted after a considerable amount of repairs to the plaster. One room had to be gutted and replastered. My furniture was shipped from Ottawa, furniture reassembled, and some belongings unpacked.

Aslan, the lion, moved from our farm, to preside over the beginnings of a new garden

The lawns and gardens of the property were gradually cleaned up and received some new plantings – 3 rhododendrons, and a dozen large perennials acquired from the gardens of Cheryl Stone in Bear River. A few small pathways were cut through the wildness of the property beyond the garden. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but I found bear scat just a stone’s throw from the back door of the house, and all along the shoreline of the little river that flows along the property. It seems we share our garden, the apples, plums, blackberries and raspberries with many wild creatures. At night, the garden is filled with bats and on several occasions, I’ve found one or two flying in circles in my bedroom as I worked at the computer. They usually leave on their own after a few minutes.

view of front garden from the room that was replastered

It would have been nice to get further along with the interior, but I think it went okay. The worst of the water-damaged walls were removed and repaired over the summer. One downstairs room that was thoroughly unusable before, is now fairly respectable and should be ready to use as a bedroom with a good view of the front garden next summer. I didn’t make much headway with rebuilding windows – some are removed and apart at the moment, so that there are just aluminum storm windows over some openings, but that’s okay too. I’ll get to all of it in good time.

the room that decided it wanted to be a kitchen

Upon arrival in April, it soon became apparent that the established kitchen of the house wasn’t really much good. The smaller, older part of the house is in really tough condition. The floor is sagging down to a ridiculous degree and probably in danger of eventually falling in. This wasn’t actually a surprise as I knew the score on that part of the house. Before long, it seemed that another room of the house wanted to be a kitchen – a large room with 4 doors going out from it, and two large west-facing windows looking out upon the neighbours’ meadow. Although still rustic, it makes a nice workspace. Hopefully, once the plumbing of the house is repaired, it will be an efficient and inspiring place in which to cook.

pink light of sunset reflecting on the now-repaired west wall of the house

Over the course of the summer, I have come to know and understand this old house. It is a unique place – filled with ever-moving light as the sun traces an arc, casting its rays through the many windows and doors. It’s the kind of house that has so many doors that there is barely a place in the downstairs where you cannot walk into a room through one door and leave through another. The sight lines through the downstairs are fascinating and at night. you can wander around the outside of the place looking right through – in one window and out through another. In the late afternoon, the sun setting over the Bay of Fundy often gives off a warm pink light that is reflected on the siding of the large west wall. The same warmth fills all of the rooms for a few minutes each evening.

Sage waiting by the van as we prepare to depart for the season

Yes, the old house has plenty of problems and short-comings. Most were known to me before the dogs and I set foot on the property in the spring. However, all in all, I’ve grown to like the place very much. I get the feeling that it has grown to like having us there too. Hopefully, all will go okay this winter – for the house and for us – and we’ll return to carry on with the repairs that will eventually make the place into a comfortable living space, if even just as a summer residence, which is really all I had ever hoped for.

And what about us? How did we manage at the house over the summer? I think it was good for all of us. Sage grew up a little over the summer. Sabrina did well and seems to have benefited from the laser therapy treatments which she received at the Port Royal Animal Clinic in Annapolis Royal. She’s got a new spring in her step these days. I seem to have done alright over the summer. It was a quiet time spent with the dogs and with very little contact with anyone other than a couple of neighbours whom the dogs and I got to know through frequent visits. For those who might be hoping that I will get all better, no, that hasn’t happened. I still continue to miss Don and feel quite sad, but at least I have been able to spend time in a peaceful place where I could work on a project that interests me. That’s about all that I expected from the old place – that it would give us a quiet haven where we could spend time working and creating. For this, I would like to thank the old house. Goodbye old place. With any luck we will see you again in the spring.

NOTE: Thanks to those of you who tried to leave a comment, but were unable to do so. I’m hoping that function will return sometime soon. This did happen once before and I didn’t have to do anything to fix it. It wasn’t working for awhile, and then things were back to normal a day or so later. Fingers crossed.

the house as seen from the front gates as I shut then for the last time as we departed

Written by bev on October 3rd, 2010

the thirty years later expedition   no comments

Dr. Fred Schueler (left), and Adam Zieleman (right), in the 30 Years Later Expedition vehicle

With the exception of my couchsurfer-visitor from France, the dogs and I have spent almost the entire summer at Round Hill in our own company. We occasionally wander over to visit our closest neighbours, but apart from that, we pretty much stick around home while I work on the house. However, the alone streak was broken a couple of weeks ago when the Thirty Years Later Expedition rolled up the lane to spend a few days working in this area of Nova Scotia.

Before I write more, I’ll let Fred and Aleta introduce themselves in their own words from their website:

Biologist/artist team Fred Schueler and Aleta Karstad revisit the landscapes they have traveled over the past 20 to 40 years, checking the condition of ecological communities and populations of plants and animals, some of them now Species At Risk. Aleta will paint and draw enroute as Fred adds valuable new data to historical records, in a database partnership with the Canadian Museum of Nature. Building on a database of over 86,000 records, this is a rare long term study in an age of short term projects.

I first came to know Fred and Aleta about 30 years ago. Don and I were keeping dairy goats at that time, and somehow or other, Fred and Aleta were referred to us in their search for a good milking doe. They acquired a wonderful goat, and we gained what was to become a long term friendship. Although we may go a year or two between seeing each other, our lives continue to intersect from time to time, and in between, we keep in touch by email and through our postings on the eastern Ontario NatureList. Over the year’s, with Fred and Aleta’s encouragement, I along with many other naturalists in eastern Ontario, began recording and contributing our observations to the NatureList. Once again, I refer to their words on the value of ecological monitoring:

Naturalists often complain that species and phenomena are neglected unless they are of direct economic interest. So many aspects of natural history are ignored that “everyplace” is effectively unknown. Environmental change makes everything different than it was before, and requires re-exploration of every territory. The more we learn, the more detail and complexity unfolds to us. Henry David Thoreau ‘travelled a good deal in Concord’, providing an unparalleled public record of the species he recognized and their relationships in natural communities, and making major advances in theoretical ecology simply by constantly re-exploring his ancestral ground.

Anyone can do for their home range what Thoreau did for Concord: notice, record, monitor, analyze, and publicize natural phenomena. Many people are out there enjoying Nature, but relatively few of them record what they see. Every one who goes out as a serious observer, with a field notebook or journal, is adding to what we can know of nature.

Many observations go unrecorded, and many scientific datasets not included in publications languish in files. Fragile Inheritance is mandated to support long term ecological monitoring, as well as archiving and databasing the observations of both amateurs and academics, historical and current. Beyond the tasks of gathering and keeping data, it supports and encourages the essential tasks of analysing, publishing, and disseminating the results of long term monitoring, both to the general public, and to decision-makers.

And so it came to pass that Don and I became more serious about recording our observations – mainly in the form of Don making notes while I would take photographs – and then I would write up field notes to post to the NatureList. In recent years, with the many complications that took place in our lives during Don’s illness, our record-keeping eventually diminished to naught, but I do hope that situation will change once I’ve got more of a home base established here and also become more adept at traveling alone as I criss-cross the continent each spring and autumn. Anyhow, more about my friends.

Aleta Karstad, working on a plein air painting in my garden

As part of the expedition work, Aleta Karstad has been creating plein air paintings at the rate of almost one per day. I will refer you to her website, Biodiversity Paintings for the 30 YEARS LATER PROJECT: adventures in the colour of Canada where you can see the paintings alongside of Aleta’s notes and natural history observations associated with each site. In the above photo, Aleta is working on a painting of one of the old Black Locust trees that shade the front garden of my house and seem to be providing food and something of a gymnasium for a family of Pileated Woodpeckers. You can read Aleta’s notes here.

a small sampling of Aleta Karstad’s plein air paintings from the expedition

One afternoon, while Fred and Aleta, and their very able assistant, Adam Zieleman (the go-to tech guy who has put together their solar power system and other wondrous things), were busy working at their tasks, I checked out Aleta’s storage box filled with recent paintings. I laid them out on the grass to photograph a few. Aleta paints in oils on 5 x 7 inch canvases. Each is a wonderful jewel-like vignette of nature, capturing the essence of the time and place where it was created. To see an array of them spread out upon the grass was like being given a kaleidoscopic glimpse into their travels (click on all photos in this post to see larger views). In addition to recording that which is seen during the expedition, the sale of Aleta’s paintings also helps to defray some of the costs associated with their field work which is only partly funded by the Canadian Museum of Nature. If you’re interested in her works, please do visit her website.

Aleta Karstad’s painting of a Phoebe on the Moira River in Ontario (see her notes about it here.

It’s been nice to have old friends visiting at my new-old place – especially friends who are quite “self-contained” and used to roughing it in the bush, so to speak, as I’m not able to provide much in the way of accommodations as yet. This week, I’m in the process of wrapping things up for this season. In some respects, I’m a little disappointed with not having finished up the exterior of the house, but with the weather as it has been – rain every third or fourth day – progress has been continuously interrupted. I could just slap some paint on the upper sections that remain unfinished, but I don’t think that’s the best strategy. Instead, I’ll try to be happy with what has been accomplished, take a break over the winter months, then pick up where I left off when I return next spring. Now I’m down to the wire with making a few last-minute repairs, putting tools and materials away for the winter, and packing my van for the long journey that lies ahead this autumn. This afternoon, I’ll be taking Sabrina to the vet’s office for a “going away” laser therapy treatment which should hold her over until we arrive in Arizona at the end of November. She’s getting around so much better these days. I can only conclude that the treatments have made a difference to her mobility. Yesterday, I actually found her part way up the stairs to the second floor of the house – twice! As I pack the van, she’s becoming more and more concerned with sticking to me like a burr. I think she’s worried that I’ll drive off without her. Not a chance of that! I’ll try to post at least once more before I depart from the house. After that, watch for new posts written along the way – by which route, I still don’t know. The weather and my mood will sort that out once we’re on the road.

NOTE
Just a bit of time-sensitive information for those who are interested in Fred and Aleta’s work. On September 22nd, 2010, Fred and Aleta will be presenting a lecture and exhibition at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, in Halifax, N.S. It is entitled Stalking the Wild Conspicuous – a Schueler/Karstad presentation on 30 Years Later Expedition research, illustrated with Karstad’s biodiversity paintings, original paintings on exhibit. Then, on September 25th, Aleta will be giving a painting workshop entitled Plein Air Painting with Aleta Karstad Out-of-doors painting in oils or acrylic, also at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History.

Thirty Years Later Expedition as it rolls away to its next destination

Written by bev on September 16th, 2010