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Stretching the season

The Canadian Safe Boating Council would like boaters to enjoy all that fall boating has to offer but [ ... ]

Island Nature Trust AGM

Island Nature Trust will hold its Annual General Meeting on September 26 beginning at 7 pm in the Ca [ ... ]

Pheasants Are Pleasant

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonThe season of flannel sheets and down-filled duvets is upon us. Let us sing the praises of luxurious bedding. And fluffy wool socks. Next Christmas I am going to cut to the chase and buy angora-blend socks for everybody, because I finally realize that fuzzy socks are a gift that keeps on giving.

Speaking of Christmas, we’ve had special visitors at our bird feeder since late December. It was a big deal one snowy day when a male ring-necked pheasant appeared out of nowhere, and it was hurry! Get the binoculars, cameras, sketch books! Then there was a second male, and finally a female joined the feeding frenzy.

I say “frenzy” because during the storms of the past month, birds have been flocking to our feeders like never before. At the 24-hour diner out front, chickadees, redpolls, juncos, goldfinches and one lovely purple finch scarf down nyger seed. In the backyard, making pigs of themselves at the mixed grain-and-sunflower feeder, are bluejays, starlings, mourning doves, crows (I admit I chase them away), juncos, and our three glorious pheasants.

We love our pheasants; but in other times and other climes someone with a gun would dispatch these beauties in a jiffy. Royalty has been especially fond of pheasants. In a friendly competition over a six-day period in December 1913, King George V shot more than a thousand pheasants, but did not win the contest.

Pheasants have apparently been in Asia since time immemorial. They breed easily in captivity and are able to take care of themselves in the wild. In the 1880s they were introduced to North America where they joined the ranks of other successfully introduced species like starlings and dandelions.

In South Dakota, hunters bag over a million pheasants a year. On Prince Edward Island, a hunter in the Cove might kill three; but I hope he doesn’t. We want our pheasants to keep jumping at berries on the burning bush, pecking at the cracked corn under the feeder, and scurrying under the honeysuckles. The males are extremely handsome with their crisp white collars, iridescent green necks, red eye patches and white beaks. The tail of the smaller male is slightly tattered as if he got in some sort of scrap, but the other cock’s tail is perfectly tapered and possibly 50 centimetres long.

The female is, well, brown. She minds her own business and is less skittish than her companions. If she makes it through the next few months she will have a brief but meaningful affair with one of the boys and shortly thereafter lay 10-15 eggs in the tall grass. Three weeks later the chicks will hatch and immediately leave the nest. Then it’s good luck to all of ye!

If pheasants can survive this winter so can we…even with metre-high snow on the roof, ice dams, loose shingles, frozen pipes, leaks, black ice, glib ice. Just remember to sleep between flannel sheets, and you’ll be okay.

Down by the Sea

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonIt’s still dark out when the phone rings. “It looks like a beautiful morning. Should we have coffee?” “Sounds good.” I get out the thermos and start making another pot.

The sun is barely up as we make our way through the snowy woods to the shore. The steps down to the beach have been taken up, so gingerly we let ourselves over the bank, trying to find a foothold on the ice-covered rocks. Safe and sound we are soon standing beside the sea.

Now with winter well and truly set in, the sea should settle into a quiet routine; but no, it’s different every day. Today the water is slushy, like jello, and makes a slusshing sound as the waves ripple in. Tomorrow there may be a crust of ice that will snap, crackle and pop. There will be days with wind and waves so strong that the sea will feel like the enemy rather than a reassuring friend.

Today the sea is friendly. We find smooth picnic rocks on which to spread blankets and settle ourselves. The coffee is hot and fragrant and we savor its satisfying bitterness as we nibble on slices of pannetone left over from someone’s Christmas supply. The sweet bread tastes as good as if it had just come out of some Italian oven, and we discuss the complexities of making and shipping such a delicious yet reasonably-priced loaf.

The sun gradually, almost reluctantly, rises above the horizon, bright, yet cold and distant. Even so it has enough heat to warm the icicles that hang down from dangling roots. Soon all along the edge of the cliff a gentle drip drip drip is added to the soundscape.

I leave the others and wander along the edge of the water. There is more sand here than usual. One day the beach is scoured down to the bone, the next day an immense sandbar has washed up on shore. How do snails and barnacles and sand fleas deal with such upheavals? Survival of the luckiest I suspect. Today no small creatures are in evidence, although a seagull seems to be happily snacking on something.

A few years ago just about this time of year, at this very spot, a remarkable event happened. It was a special day of celebration, so we started the morning with—what else—a walk on the shore. Right where we were sitting today, a harp seal was sunning itself on a rock! Our own silkie. It stuck around just long enough to give us a blessing, and then it was off into the icy waters. There is no silkie on the rocks this morning, just some chatty women, special people, friends of mine. Seeing them also feels like a good omen.

At my feet the sea and the New Year stretch clear and uninterrupted, full of possibilities, surprises, perhaps some miracles, maybe some disappointments, but always lots of coffee and good conversation. Happy 2014!

Don’t Get Bogged Down

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonI was feeling a little blue today. My brother out in Alberta is not well and I got caught up in one of those loops of memories and mixed emotions that seem to have no end. My brother’s a motorcycle guy. He collects old tractors, puts bicycles together from scratch, brings home washing machines from the dump and makes them work again. I’m not sure if we’d be friends if we weren’t related, but we are. The thing is, he gave me my first guitar, lent me a motorcycle for my first summer job, and bought me a set of Samsonite luggage as a high school graduation gift. He’s one of the few people who knew me when I was a child, he’s part of me and I don’t want to lose him.

My mother always said, when you’re feeling down, get busy. So this morning I dug a patch in the garden for the new garlic, put away summer lawn chairs, did a laundry, shelled a quart of brown beans, cooked a batch of apple sauce… and went cranberry picking. In the bog, life comes into perspective. No one lives forever, but I’ve had a good life and I think my brother has too. Meanwhile, here I am sloshing in rubber boots through ankle-deep water, surrounded by exotic nature and wild berries free for the picking. I love this bog. In winter it is a fantasyland of mysterious shapes and lumps; in spring it becomes a rhapsody of rhodora; in summer it turns into a frenzy of fireflies; and now it finishes its cycle of loveliness with a generous outpouring of autumn berries.

I follow my little path into the bog past bayberry, rose and raspberry bushes, and kneel down in this glistening water world. The ripest reddest cranberries are out in the sun, but when I burrow my hand into the wet moss I feel the plump berries that have spent summer nestled in their own personal paradise. One by one they plink into my empty bucket. The sound of falling berries, accompanied by the voice of a chatty squirrel, provides a gentle soundtrack for my thoughts.

A potato truck roars by, heavily laden with fat brown tubers. A few potatoes bounce out, and I pick them up for supper on my way home. As I start cleaning the cranberries in the kitchen I notice that there is a phone message waiting: it’s time to plan the bean supper, and when should we meet?

Oh yes, the Cove has settled into its comfortable fall rhythm of pleasant social activities. The cottagers have gone home, school buses are coming and going on schedule, and people are starting to think about Christmas. Plans are good things. My brother and I are talking about getting together next spring at our niece’s wedding. He wants to show me the 1927 Case Crossmount tractor he’s rebuilding.

Bar Hopping

The Cove Journal Review
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonIt rained all day, a heavy plodding rain straight down without let-up or interruption. Cats and dogs curled up in their usual places and slept the hours away. School children yawned as they studied their books, teachers sighed and glanced anxiously at the clock, farmers went to town. Sump pumps kicked in and rain barrels overflowed.

Then at suppertime, as if by magic, a crack appeared in the leaden clouds and blue sky forced its way through. Soon after, I heard my name called with, “Tide’s out. Shall we walk down to the shore?” Yes, yes, let’s go.

There are many places on this island that are much like the Cove, some more dramatic or dangerous or developed; but to my eyes as one who lives here, the Cove sets the standard for beauty. And this early autumn evening—this gift after the dreariness of the day—raised the bar of seaside perfection.

The word “limpid” rarely comes up in conversation (limpid: clear, transparent, pellucid), but finally I have an opportunity to use it. The air that evening could only be described as limpid. The rain had washed it free of every dust particle and imperfection, and there was the Cove laid out for our viewing pleasure, perfectly calm and clear.

The sandbars were darker than usual, almost black around the edges, with the sand, finely pitted by raindrops, resembling the coarsest grade of sandpaper. Here and there mystery holes appeared as if someone had been digging clams, except that clams no longer live on these bars.

Under the cliffs, oblivious to human presence, long-legged sandpipers and plovers scurried, heads down, intent on supper. A flock of terns bobbed gracefully in a large tidal pool, conversing amongst themselves in their tern-y way, while occasionally dipping their heads underwater for a light snack. Out on the rocky point, cormorants and harp seals dried off in pleasant companionship. As for the seagulls strutting along the water’s edge, it almost seemed that they were admiring their reflection in the still water: “Is that us? My goodness, how handsome we are!” Right on cue a blue heron came gliding over our heads, its wings cutting through the air with strength and authority.

The water was warm and inviting, perfect for feet already grown used to cool weather footwear, and we rolled up our pants to savor the summer pleasure of walking right across the Cove.  Coming back, the tide had started to turn, bringing little silver fishes in with the current. Little fishes—beware!

On our way home, steam rising from the marsh bathed our whole little world in mystery. There was just you, me, and the sea. We were suspended in that brief time between the rush of summer and the darkness of winter, and we were trying to capture every moment of daylight and warmth that we could.



The Cove Journal (review)
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonA new bridge is being built in the Cove this summer. What with the noise of jackhammers, compressors, and dump trucks coming and going, not to mention detoured traffic streaming down our usually quiet road, life seems a bit hectic. Let’s slip away for the afternoon and have a good laugh. Destination: Summerside, home of free parking, ball tournaments, Wanda Wyatt House, and a marina where the sun reflects so brightly off the boats it’s almost blinding. Beside the marina is Harbourfront Theatre, small, intimate and elegant.

Now imagine a play built around the premise of fifty-two nuns dying of food poisoning after dining on vichyssoise prepared by Sister Julia Child of God. With insufficient funds to bury everyone, four dead nuns are stored in the convent freezer, and the remaining living sisters organize a benefit concert to pay for their interment. Implausible, irreverent, irrepressible: it’s all Nunsense.

Right from the start, the audience is part of the action. The nuns, the Little Sisters of Hoboken, stroll down the aisles, with very nun-like pleasantries: “How good of you to come!” “Oh my, don’t you look nice!”  Then as we are asked to stand up and give some very un-nun-like cheers, the show ramps up. The five talented women on stage move effortlessly through their roles, each “nun” having her own moment in the spotlight. They all sing and harmonize beautifully, and their diction is precise with every word coming through loud and clear. The songs are largely unmemorable, but lots of fun (“I’m holier than thou”), and our toes tap along with every number. Mother Superior (Robin Craig) gets the biggest laugh when she sniffs a mystery drug that frees her of all inhibitions. Now just imagine a stoned nun hanging over a bar stool…

Religious jokes abound (Why did Moses wander for forty years in the desert?—Because he was a man and wouldn’t ask directions), but you don’t have to be a Catholic to enjoy Nunsense. There’s some classical ballet, puppetry, tap dancing, lots of singing, even a little movie. One of the secrets of its success is the skill of the musical director, Leo Marchildon. It’s worth going to this show just for the sake of listening to, and watching “Brother Leo” coax a whole orchestra’s worth of sound effects out of his lively keyboard.

At intermission there’s not much action at the concessions stand, even though the beer selection is huge and cheap at $5. After the show, refreshed from an afternoon of laughter and high spirits, people disperse quickly, for it’s Sunday afternoon and everyone’s anxious to get home and light the barbeque.

Our own drive back to the Cove seems especially pleasant. The highway winds through harvested grain fields where golden straw gleams in the late afternoon light, past silver poplars flashing showy undersides, while here and there, wild thyme covers the shoulders of the road with a soft purple mantle, and tall sprays of goldenrod nod gracefully in the breeze.

Back home, cold drink in hand, we wander down to look at progress on the bridge. Say now, it’s going to be one of the best little bridges on the Island! Why don’t we cook a dinner for the construction crew by way of thanks? After all, they’re a great bunch, and they drive here all the way from Tyne Valley every day. Let’s talk it over with our neighbors tomorrow. I know the Little Sisters of Hoboken would approve.

Almost Heaven

Having Hope at Home

The Cove Journal (review)
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonDown at the Cove for a swim, tide coming in, warm layer on top, no jellyfish, sun dancing cheerfully on sparkling waves, I once again count my blessings. Back on land, I remark casually to a young girl, “So what do you think of heaven?” She stares at me blankly. “What I mean is,” I continue, “this place, this day—don’t you think it’s heaven?” Her father, coming along heavily laden with beach items, replies on his daughter’s behalf. “Oh no, heaven will be much better than this!”

I bid the little family good-bye and head home. The air is scented by sweet clover and wild roses, the ditches are crowded with vetch and daisies in full bloom, and I can’t help thinking, “All the same, poor old God will have a hard time topping this.”

This sense of perfection carries into the evening as my friends and I join the audience filing into Victoria Playhouse for the production Having Hope at Home. It’s a mostly older crowd of men in polo shirts, and short-haired women in pastel blouses and jackets. Everyone is smiling, and the smiles continue all night long, for Having Hope is joyful from start to finish.

The play starts with a bang, or actually a shriek, as pregnant Carolyn (Breanna Moore) goes into labor. The crowd roars as Grandpa (Jack Wynters) cuts carrots for supper by snipping them with his teeth, pompous doctor (Mark Stevenson) jumps on a chair to lecture the family on the dangers of home birth, peace-making mother in three-piece fitted suit (Cathy Grant) “makes a scene,” and midwife (Charlene Reno) admits to having been a hippie. At the end, when new father Michel (Mark Fraser) falls asleep on the couch with newborn baby girl on his chest, the play is wrapped up, as it were, in a pretty pink bow. Congratulations to director Ron Irving and crew.

Victoria Playhouse is the dream child of local residents who in the early 1980’s converted the old Victoria Hall into a theatre. Founding artistic director was Erskine Smith, whose sudden passing in June left Victoria, and indeed the whole Island, reeling with shock. But wait, Erskine has not left the building! More than one person observed that Jack Wynter’s portrayal of Grandpa was uncannily Erskine-ish. It was somehow comforting to realize that the spirit of Erskine Smith lives on.

Of course, going to the theatre in Victoria is not just about seeing a play. It encompasses the whole village experience. In this small community, people still stroll the streets on a summer’s evening for the simple pleasure of admiring the majestic trees, the well-kept heritage homes, and the waves lapping at the shore. Packs of children bike furiously down the road, people come out of the chocolate shop with smudges on their cheeks, conversations strike up between perfect strangers, and the cares of the outside world fade into the distance.

It’s almost like, well, like heaven.

Strawberry Social

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Artwork by JoDee SamuelsonLast year a million or so visitors came to PEI. We assume that a goodly number will come this summer too. They will relax on our beaches, eat at our restaurants, attend concerts, play golf…and some will drive by a small one-room school where a sign posted in the yard announces: STRAWBERRY SOCIAL TONIGHT. If this happens to you, and it’s evening, and you see cars parked up and down the road, stop immediately and join the queue.

A Strawberry Social is just about the nicest event you will ever attend. Of course you have to be willing to sit by perfect strangers and launch into your life story, including where you’re from, who your people are, where you’ve been and where you’re going next, but that’s okay, because as you compare stories, you’re enjoying the most delicious strawberries and ice cream this side of heaven, and you’re thinking, “Can this be true? Why don’t we have strawberry socials where we come from?”

Any community can hold a Strawberry Social, but not every place can produce strawberries as tasty as those grown on PEI. Our rainfall, temperature, and slightly acidic soil are perfect for the culture of Fragaria x ananassa, also known as the garden strawberry. Islanders love strawberries—as do slugs, snails, moths, flies, weevils, thrips, beetles, mites and aphids; and under damp conditions the plants fall prey to mildew, mold, rot, blight, wilt, and nematodes. In spite of pests and diseases, there are usually plenty of berries left for us to scoff down in vast quantities. A July without strawberries for dessert every night is unthinkable. And that batch of strawberry jam bubbling on the stove holds promise of breakfast bliss all year long.

You could make jam from California strawberries, and you could plan a Strawberry Social around berries grown in fumigated soil through holes punched in plastic (although it’s not inconceivable that some small California town does exactly that); but the secret of a Strawberry Social is to have top quality strawberries freshly picked and sliced that very morning. You need rich vanilla ice cream made from the milk of contented cows—like those in the pasture across the road. Ask your best biscuit-makers to whip up delicious fluffy shortcake to be lovingly placed under the ice cream and strawberries, and ask everyone else to make squares and cookies—and not just ordinary sugar cookies, but those whoopee-ding-dong multi-layer choco-minti-crackle supreme-o-deluxe squares that everyone wanted last year.

Clean the hall. Lay the tables with white tablecloths, red napkins, and bouquets of fresh flowers. Turn on the coffee percolator a good hour before doors open. Keep the biggest urn for tea because that’s what people want in the evening. Put plates of sweets on the tables. Aprons on? Everybody ready?

Woman of the Cove

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Florence by JoDee SamuelsonWriting this journal every month has made me acutely aware of the passage of time. This spring we have marveled at the lengthening days, our neighbor’s new lamb, fresh tips on spring seaweed, scent of mayflowers, eagles at the Cove making love—yes, it’s true! Now the days march on to the merry month of June, June of the Rhubarb Social, the Summer Solstice, the first strawberries. We have waited all year for this month, and plan to make full use of every splendid moment.

I can’t think of a better way to use this day than to honour a friend who has lived through a goodly number of summers, and lived them well. Florence MacCannell, a true woman of the Cove, was born at home here in the early 1920s, became a nurse, married a Cove fisherman, raised a fine family, and wrote a history book.  Now she has moved to a lodge in Charlottetown where she is taking it easy with her e-books and jigsaw puzzles. I visited Florence recently, and here is part of her story.

It was an understood thing when I was a child that I would be a teacher. In those days, if you wanted more education after grade ten, you had to go to college of some sort. I went to Prince of Wales, which was high school and more. Boarding cost $10 a month, and tuition was $5 a year for rural students. That was very cheap, but I couldn’t go out for a Coke or anything.

Women could take teacher training or business courses. I took teacher training, and received my teacher class 1 certificate. Then I wanted to help the war effort, so I went to Ottawa to work as a clerk for a squadron leader. When the war ended I was at loose ends. One day I was outside hanging up my wash, thinking about what I should do. I decided then and there to become a nurse. I came back to the Island, and after three years of training I graduated from Prince County Hospital.

In those days, patients were treated like royalty! We washed them all over two or three times a day, gave them back rubs with rubbing alcohol, brushed their hair—you couldn’t do enough for the patient. But today, nurses know so much more. We didn’t know half what they’re taught these days.

Now I’m going to brag!  Dr. MacLeod said, “Florence can handle any situation.”  (Someone else told me that, not him.) I suppose I could keep calm in an emergency. I resuscitated Billy when he fell into the tub of water. It was suppertime, and Jack’s brother had brought home a new television set. We were all sitting around watching it, when Jack’s mother—she lived with us—looked out the window and cried, “Oh, look at the boy in the tub of water!” I tore outside and there was Billy in the rain barrel.  He had turned blue. I lifted him out, put him face down on the cellar hatch, and gave a few gentle pushes until he breathed. My daughter Rosemary, who was three years old and had been playing outside, was coming in to tell me about Billy just as Jack’s mother noticed him; so he was only in the water for a short while.

We didn’t have a phone, but Jack went to a neighbor’s to call Dr. MacLeod.   When he arrived, Billy was still unresponsive, but breathing. Of course, after a bit I had to go out and milk the cows; and I guess the family had supper, but I can’t tell you what they ate. Billy woke up in the evening and he was okay. It’s a miracle his brain wasn’t affected. He was only two years old at the time.

I should say that I taught school before I went to Ottawa, and taught again after I took my nurse’s training. I was married by now, and we had a baby.  It was hard to drive back and forth to the hospital in Charlottetown, so I decided to put my name forward to teach here in the Cove.  Because I was married with a child, the trustees decided that I shouldn’t be teaching: I should be home looking after my child and husband.  So I got a job teaching in the next community, and a girl from that place came to the Cove. I taught there one year, then another school came looking for me. When I became pregnant again, I gave up teaching till the children were old enough to look after one another.

I grew up in the 1930s.  Nobody had money, but don’t ever say they were poor. People had great pride. There was no such thing as borrowing money—you’d be horrified to go in debt. A few hundred dollars in the bank was something! If you went to work for a neighbor, it was “swapping” work. For picking potatoes you’d get paid a dollar day—and you earned it!

In the Cove there was no dancing, card-playing, bingo, or working on Sunday. Jack and I went to an old-time dance once in a while, but not often. From my own point-of-view, there was no time for entertainment. There was barely time to do the things you had to do. I helped with the farm work, and by the time the kids were settled at night, I was pooped. Mind you, there was a lot of visiting back and forth. And you had to have a lunch, no matter if it was morning, afternoon, or evening. When someone came to the door, the first thing you’d do was put on the kettle.

What was the Cove like in the olden days? Very old fashioned. Horse and sleigh in wintertime. No electricity until 1951. We all had outhouses, and if you ran out of toilet paper you might use magazines or catalogues; but smooth shiny paper, “slicky paper,” was no good at all.

In my opinion, school consolidation was the best thing that ever happened to this province. Until then, boys quit school at thirteen to work on the farm. With school consolidation and buses taking them right to the doorstep, there was some incentive to keep studying. Also, family allowance—$6 a month—was paid only if a child stayed in school until sixteen years of age.

Roads, yes, they were important. I had to get to work, and better roads made my job easier. Electricity was important too. But to me personally, education was the key. In our province there were many Scotch people, who brought education out with them. Scotland had the best educational system in the world…or so I read in a book recently. You can’t believe everything you read, but I’m Scottish on both sides so perhaps I’m a little prejudiced.

One thing I’m proud of is giving a talk to the Women’s Institute when Wayne Rostad [On the Road Again] was there, and we had our picture taken together.

You say this is going in the June Buzz? I’ll have to make sure I get a copy.

JoDee Samuelson is…

JoDee SamuelsonBorn in Saskatchewan and raised in Alberta, filmmaker and artist JoDee Samuelson now lives on the beautiful South Shore of Prince Edward Island. She is best known for her animated films, The Bath, The Sandbox, Mabel’s Saga, and Uncle Bob’s Hospital Visit. These films have been shown at festivals around the world and have won numerous awards for the Island filmmaker.

JoDee also paints, writes, and plays violin in the Strathgartney Chamber Orchestra. Last month she received a Masters of Arts in Island Studies degree from UPEI, with a thesis profiling the watermills of Prince Edward Island, and Gotland Island, Sweden.

This is JoDee’s third year of writing “The Cove Journal” for The Buzz, and she says that she has enjoyed every minute of it.

Events Calendar

September 2018
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23 24 25 26 27 28 29

Some Upcoming Events

Comic Book Art

Exhibit features work by Island comic book creators Until October 5
Eptek Centre There is a thrivin [ ... ]

The Children Act

September 27–October 4
City Cinema PG, language warning
Dir: Richard Eyre, UK, 105 min. Emma Thomps [ ... ]

Hip Hop at Holland College

Snak the Ripper and others at Florence Simmons September 22
Florence Simmons Performance Hall   [ ... ]

Recent News & Articles

Drawing the line

Profile: Sandy Carruthers by Jane Ledwell Retired for a year now after twenty-five years teaching  [ ... ]

Free transportation at Cloggeroo

The provincial government will sponsor free transportation at this year’s Cloggeroo festival to he [ ... ]

Charlottetown’s Historic Squares exhibit...

The City of Charlottetown Planning and Heritage Department has created an exhibit exploring the hist [ ... ]