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Newcomer Orientation Sessions

The City of Charlottetown is hosting a Newcomer Orientation Session on October 30 from 5:30–7:30 p [ ... ]

Sexual health walk-in clinic

A sexual health walk-in clinic will offer Islanders another way to access sexual health services, in [ ... ]

Charles and Myrtle

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Myrtle by Jodee SamuelsonOn this frozen winter morning with the north wind urging me to stay indoors, I decide to step out and visit some elder residents of the Cove, Charles and Myrtle MacNevin.

Charles MacNevin was born here, in the house where he has lived out his 84 years. I meet him coming out the door on his way to fetch firewood. “That’s okay, I can do it later,” he insists as he ushers me into the back porch. Myrtle is in the kitchen at the McClary kitchen range, deftly poking in foot-long chunks of split hardwood. “This stove is as old as I am,” she says. “I couldn’t do without it.” The oven door is open, a kettle hisses quietly, various clocks tick gently in the background. I step into the past.

So, I ask, what was winter like in days gone by?

Myrtle: “Snow, deep snow!”

Charles: “The roads weren’t open, everyone traveled on the fields and rivers. You had to be careful on the ice because of all the springs. Mostly you knew where they were, and of course the ice was bushed [marked with small trees frozen into the ice], but even so the ice could get thin. Maybe we went to town once a week, over the fields and down the river. We’d haul in a load of potatoes, or hay for the livery stables—there were quite a few in town those days. While you did your errands you’d leave your horse at the stable and they’d feed it a bite of hay, so those places always needed hay.”

Myrtle: “Charles could get a hot dinner at the livery stable, in the house. The wife cooked the meals and the husband looked after the horses.”

What about your daily routines?

Charles: “In the morning the water in the kettle might be frozen. First thing was to get the stove going, then feed the animals. Breakfast was after that. Oatmeal porridge, bread and molasses, tea and milk. We only milked one cow in winter, the others were dried up till they calved in spring.”

Myrtle: “We always had plenty of milk. And meat and potatoes, carrots and pickles and everything. See these carrots? I’m making copper pennies with them. They’re still good, but in the spring when carrots started to sprout, most people used to throw them out. Charles’s mother lived with us until she died at 98, and she showed me how to make copper pennies with old carrots. You slice them in rounds, boil them and put them in vinegar and spices. They’re some good! My own mother died when I was eight so I didn’t learn much cooking. Charles’s mother taught me everything.”

Charles: “And of course there was threshing that went on all winter, barley and oats. Everyone helped each other, one farm one week, another the next. No one kept track.”

Our conversation rolls on and on. The clocks ticks, time passes, but we do not keep track.

Another New Year

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

New Year by JoDee SamuelsonThe landscape is brown and gold with a few welcome crimson highlights of rosehips, Nova Scotia hollyberries and wild apples. Chrismas lights disappear too quickly, leaving the night landscape bleak and introspective. How long ago summer seems.

A sharp-shinned hawk sits on the phone line contemplating breakfast possibilities. Canada geese, reluctant to leave, congregate in a field of stubble. Black ducks circle lazily in the open water of an almost frozen pond, while crows fly noisily from treetop to shore, sending messages or sharing news—who knows? A cat darts across the road and disappears into the ditch. It’s another New Year for all of us, though humans take this change of calendar more seriously than our feathered and furry friends.

People of the Cove are still recovering from December, our busiest month of the year. It began with the Women’s Institute Christmas potluck supper which included a collection of “White Cross gifts” (personal items such as socks and pajamas) for the Canadian Mental Health Association. The next week a Christmas House Tour raised money for the equipment funds of the QEH and Prince County Hospitals. To the homeowners who opened your beautiful houses, to those who bought tickets, and to the women who kept the cider hot and cookie trays filled at the old school: thank you.

The grandest event of all was the Living Nativity. Words cannot do it justice, but it is clear that community spirit is alive and well in the Cove. If you were in one of the hundreds of cars that drove past the manger of Bethlehem and saw the goats sleeping in the young shepherd’s lap, or Tessie the horse nibbling at a choir member’s song sheet, or the baby donkey kicking up its heels, or the alpacas smiling enigmatically at the amazing sight, or white-robed angels perched on bales quietly blessing the holy birth, or the red-gowned choir singing Joy to the World!—well, then, you know what happened: the Christmas Story came alive in that brief shining drive-through moment.  None of us will ever forget it.

Open houses, concerts, craft sales, staff parties, shopping for presents and carol singing now seem like distant memories. We take a deep breath and look about us. What was it all about? Are we better people for all the energy (and money) we spent last month? Was it worth it? Of course it was! We got through the darkest month of the year with spirit and class! In small communities such as ours, thousands of dollars were raised willingly and cheerfully for important causes, not out of charity but out of friendship. We shared music and laughter, stories and food, we dressed up, lit candles, played games, made gingerbread houses, made excuses to phone one another and meet for coffee. It as all worthwhile and always will be, as long as we have winter with its cold dark nights and as long as there is Christmas.

A Living Nativity

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Alpaca by JoDee SamuelsonWhat are these curious alpacas doing in the Cove? They’re standing in for camels in our first ever Living Nativity in the Cove.

A Living Nativity is a leap of imagination, a star above a lowly stable, the warm smell of farm animals, it is sheep and cows and yes, alpacas peering over the gate. It is a baby in the manger wrapped in swaddling clothes, Mary, Joseph, shepherds and wise men, and angel choirs singing Glory in the Highest.  As you drive slowly through the farmyard you reflect upon the simplicity and power of the Christmas story, and you leave with a smile on your face.

The sheep, horse, cattle and donkeys involved in the Living Nativity are looking forward to playing their roles. For weeks they have been conscientiously practicing their mooing, baaing and braying, and the consensus is: they are ready to go.

This might be enough seasonal community action in the Cove, but no: we are holding a Christmas Concert and a Women’s Institute Christmas House Tour. Obviously the Cove is the place to be this month.

Good-hearted generous December, month of tradition, month of candlelight suppers. Singing songs we all know by heart. Listening to classical music. Red and green decorations, fir trees, the smell of popcorn. Cat sleeping on the couch. December, month of darkness. Christmas lights going up—how welcome they are! The month of cuddling up to that warm place in the house: a heater, a fireplace, a bed. Woolen sweaters that seem so impossibly thick in May now become absolutely perfect.

As we get older we want things to continue exactly as they have in the past. We want the same Christmas goose with the same sausage stuffing, the same cookies, the same fruitcake, the same Christmas pudding even though it’s always too much on a full stomach. We might even want the same presents: doesn’t everyone need new underwear and socks? Father doesn’t get a tie anymore, or Mother perfume. Fortunately for young children there are dollar stores. In my childhood there were Five to a Dollar Stores. The first gift I ever bought for my father, from a Five to a Dollar Store, was a black pocket comb. At the same time my brother bought Dad a ping pong ball—even though we didn’t have a ping pong table. That ping pong ball lived in Dad’s top drawer forever, and was still there when we cleaned out the house years later.

Which is to say, don’t sweat the gift giving. It truly is the thought that counts.

Alpacas don’t exchange presents. They don’t normally “do” Christmas. To an alpaca, one day is pretty much the same as the next, but they do like standing in for the camels of the Three Wise Men in the starring role of their lives.

Seasons Greetings from Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, sheep, horse, and the rest of the cast of the Living Nativity in the Cove.

California Berries

Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Strawberries by JoDee SamuelsonWith our gardens put to bed for the winter, we turn to grocery store shelves for fresh fruit and vegetables. Where do those beautifully packaged strawberries come from?

California.

Your trusty correspondent had the good fortune to be in California recently, in Watsonville, south of Santa Cruz. This city is a tiny dot on the map, yet (unlike the dots on a PEI map) it is home to 50,000 residents. Every day before dawn, a stream of vehicles creeps through the town, bearing farm workers on their way to the strawberry fields of Watsonville. By the time the sun comes up, pickers are already filling baskets with fruit that will, within the week, be on PEI kitchen tables. 

The strawberry fields are flat, twice the size of the Charlottetown racetrack or larger. Berries are grown in hilled double rows through holes punched in plastic, with an irrigation hose running along each row. Are they as good as Island strawberries? No! Even berries from an organic U-Pick were hard and tough-stemmed, perfect for shipping across the country but not for snackin’ on while you pick, as we do here.

Every two years, the fields (of non-organic farms) are plowed down, fumigated and covered with an immense sheet of plastic. When every living thing is good and dead, the plastic gets bundled up and shipped to Asia to be recycled, and the berry planting-and-growing routine resumes. All that plastic seems a little grim—not to mention the chemicals used to fumigate—but those farmers give us what we want: beautiful fruit year-round.

Watsonville enjoys a pleasant coastal climate, good for apple orchards, acres of greenhouses bursting with raspberries and blackberries, and lettuce in impeccable rows stretching to the horizon. Over the hills to the east is the San Joaquim Valley (the flattest land surface on earth) with mile after mile of pistachio trees, walnuts, almonds and pecans; raisin grapes: red potatoes; roma tomatoes; peppers; garlic; corn corn corn; cotton; peaches, plums. The heat is intense. Holstein cows stand listlessly under what shade they can find, munching on corn silage and dreaming of moving to PEI. In the dairy farmer’s yard a palm tree reaches to the heavens, with a fig or orange tree complementing the landscape.

California is truly a different world. With the right combination of irrigation, huge machinery and cheap labour they can grow everything. It’s impossible to tell who the illegal immigrants are, but it’s a sure thing that they’re happy to have jobs.

Back on the Island we find things comfortingly the same as when we left. Out for a nighttime walk, we admire the moonlight reflecting off the treetops, and off the plastic-wrapped rows of silage in the farmer’s field, reminding us that, like California, we have our own plastic waste issues. We’re connected in many ways, not the least of which is our fondness for the humble strawberry.

Feeding Friends

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Garlic by JoDee SamuelsonThe autumnal equinox has come and gone and we head into calm reflective October. There is plenty to keep us occupied, but the frantic busy-ness of summer is already a distant memory. Potato farmers, of course, are anything but calm and reflective as they work night and day to get in the year’s crop.

Hurricane Irene blew away the mugginess of late summer, bringing bright skies and clear air—and tomato blight. Few gardeners in the Cove have tomatoes this year. Everything that could be done was done, short of bringing all the tomato plants in-doors. Europeans didn’t eat tomatoes until the time of Cortez, so life will no doubt continue. We do miss BLT sandwiches, one of the many tasty highlights of the season.

There seemed to be an abundance of cabbage butterflies this summer. Oh for pest-free crops! Organic farmers have their work cut out for them. Something that was successful and needed very little tending was garlic. Our excellent harvest of fat juicy bulbs is drying in the shed, ready for future use or for planting. Garlic should be planted three weeks before the first frost. Vesey’s website lists October 9 as PEI’s first frost date, so it’s time to start getting those garlic beds ready. Don’t forget to snuggle your garlic under as much mulch as you can muster.  A foot of mixed grass clippings, seaweed, twigs and leaves isn’t too much. This will settle, and in spring you can rake it between the rows to keep the weeds down.

It seems appropriate to take a moment to remember two stalwart sons of the Cove who passed away recently, taking their own chapters of history with them. One was a sturdy elderly farmer, Scottish Presbyterian to the core, of sound mind and excellent conversation, who appreciated the occasional sip of sherry. He did not claim to have done great deeds, yet his knowledge of livestock, potatoes, hay and grain, weather and world events was impressive. We miss dropping in to share news with him, and we miss his smile.

The second gentleman was a friendly soul who rented a wood splitter every fall. Once he was done with it, he’d haul it over to any neighbor who needed wood-splitting assistance. In the spring he would get a truck to fetch mushroom compost from Freetown, and some of us would get a share of the load for our gardens. Friends like this are not easily replaced, nor do we want to replace them—we want to keep them.

Wood splitters are not needed the way they used to be. Firewood comes trimmed to length and split perfectly. But we do need friends. As the weather turns cooler and we move indoors, let us dig the big roasting chicken out of the freezer, throw some potatoes, carrots, beets and a few garlic cloves in the roasting pan, put candles on the table, and invite each other over for supper. Bon appetit!

Rain or Shine

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Cindy & David by JoDee SamuelsonLet us brush the fuzzy green mould off the leather sandals that fell behind the shelf in the porch—the good ones we have been hunting for since June—and sing praises to our glorious but damp summer. Wise minds have come up with suggestions for seasons such as this:

—A cloudy day is no match for a sunny disposition. (William Ward)
—Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out. (Art Linkletter)
—Those who wish to sing, always find a song. (Swedish Proverb)
—I not only bow to the inevitable; I am fortified by it. (Thornton Wilder)
—Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time. (Betty Smith)

So when it rained on their wedding day, our young Cove couple dug out the umbrellas and carried on with their ceremony down on the shore. It was a memorable event, with the wedding party and most of the guests in full wedding regalia, plus bare feet. Everyone dried off and no one caught pneumonia.

Adaptability has always been a trademark of Islanders. Anyone who ever called The Island “home” knows that while weather and fortune are fickle, there is always a fatted calf ready to be trotted out for a good party. So we invite  prodigal sons, summer visitors and wedding guests join us in sunshine or rain and partake of the feast afterwards.

Most of our summer visitors have gone home. The piano got played, the garbage bins overflowed, Trivial Pursuit made an appearance, as did Snakes and Ladders, Careers and Clue, and restless children found that there was plenty to do with paper, scissors and markers. Seashells littered the table. There were night walks in the rain to investigate mysterious fire sirens and flashing lights.

There was the trip to the Exhibition to milk the patient plastic cow (wow, those teats look like the real thing!), braid the horse’s tail (same stuff used for violin bows), listen to chomping potato beetles (scary! sounds like humans smacking their way through a lobster supper), pet the American alligator (it feels like a dragon!). There were the barrel races, the harness races, the balloon man, the butter sculptor, cows being shaved and milked, crowing roosters, and of course, the food fair with the best baked potatoes, the best strawberry shortcake, and the best fruit smoothies. Who could ask for more?

Now the ferris wheel and cotton candy machine have moved on to other towns, and the Women’s Institute jams and jellies are back in Island pantries. Glowing summer memories are replaced by the daily realities of work and school. The changing house down at the Cove is quiet and the canteen is closed.

So that was summer, and a fine old summer it was. To quote Winston Churchill: “I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.”

Go to the Beach

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Beach by JoDee SamuelsonHere we are at the very peak of summer. Even with straw hats and liberal slatherings of sunscreen we are all brown and rosy. Winter clothes are finally put away—for a few months. Let’s go to the beach.

Beach-going is a fine art practiced by thousands of Islanders every single fine summer day. Here’s how it’s done.

1. Wake up in the morning, put on the coffee and step outside. Sky clear? Yes. Calm? Yes. Then check the tides. Look at your tide-clock, or in the tide book which is available for purchase at The Bookmark, or on-line. Everything seems auspicious, the weather report on the radio calls for a sunny 28 degrees, low tide at noon. Perfect.

2. Gather together the beach supplies: towels, swimsuits, sunglasses, goggles, sunblock, beach shoes, beach chairs, beach umbrellas and toys as necessary. Pack the cooler with ice, drinks and snacks, and the beach bag with more snacks. Potato chips are popular. Apples get dropped in the sand and from then on become undesirable.

3. Wake up the children. Load them in the car. Stick in a CD and play joyful music as you head to your favorite beach. There’s no need to rush, the beach will still be there. Enjoy the scenery. Potatoes are in bloom, cattle are in pasture, colts and fillies gallop across the meadow, tails held high. Everywhere there are streams and shorelines. Bridge jumpers, lean young men and gorgeous babes, lounge against the rails of every good-sized bridge watching each other take the daring plunge into an icy channel.

Lupins are long gone, fireweed is finished, and now the dark leaves of mid-summer provide an attractive background for ditches full of golden rod. Golden rod is a sure sign that the season is moving along, but since bees adore it, those of us who love honey mustn’t complain. Has anyone noticed all the fireflies this year? Magic.

4. Here we are at the beach!

5. Open the car door slowly, get out and stand still. It’s all here just like you knew it would be. Where to begin, what to do? Stake out a spot on the lawn or head down to a sand bar? Tide’s out, the sand bar wins. So much to tote down, but once the chairs are opened and umbrella is up, the whole day starts to take on a glow of perfection. There is absolutely nothing to do but be right here.

If you choose to stay home, there are plenty of chores around the place. Has anyone had as many potato beetles as we’ve had in the Cove this year? Mostly they come in twos and they seem to be enjoying themselves mightily. Too bad. We squish ‘em.

Oh heck, it’s too hot to work in the garden. Let’s go to the beach.

Lazy, Crazy Days

The Cove Journal
by JoDee Samuelson

Boats by JoDee SamuelsonThose clear calm evenings of July are upon us, when not a ripple is out of place. Voices carry across the water, across the landscape, the whole world shares in the conversations and laughter of summer happiness. This is the best place to be, right here, right now. Even the mosquitoes have taken a holiday. Or maybe we’re just getting immune.

During the day, motorcycles roar down our country roads, the man in front, the woman on back. Women’s lib has not hit the motorcycle circuit, but everyone seems to be having fun. Bicyclists stop at the corner to consult their maps. Yes, you’re lost, but what a lovely spot to be lost.  Here comes the farmer’s tractor, groaning a little as it pulls the huge load of round bales.

The farmers are bringing in the hay.
Another season, come what may,
The cows will eat, and we’ll have meat,
And milk and cheese for those who please.

The lupins are almost gone, only a few blossoms at the very tip of the stalk. Was this not the most gorgeous spring on record? Every thing that could flower did so in the greatest profusion. Either this portends a bumper crop of cherries, apples, pears, strawberries, cranberries, butternuts and saskatoons; or else, with all the blossoms competing for space, sunlight and nutrition, every fruit will be smaller than usual. Whatever. It’s been a fabulous show.

Gardens are in and doing well. Potato fields are in full bloom. The bees went to the blueberry fields to pollinate the crop and have now been settled in summer beeyards. Calves that were prancing around on willowy legs only last month are now turning into sober bovine citizens. Our million acre farm is as productive as ever. And what a great crop of rhubarb!

The Cove Rhubarb Social was an unforgettable feast of that winning combination of rhubarb and sugar. Pies, cakes, cookies, squares, sauce, juice. Motto for the social: “Rhubarb: Is it a fruit or a vegetable? Who cares! It’s rhubarb!”  Someone mentioned a Persian curry that uses rhubarb. Now that would make an interesting addition.

In July we move onto the Strawberry Social. Again, sugar and fruit reign supreme. Events such as this are the delight of cottage folks. If something was held at the school every day, holidayers would be happy to attend. Alas, the volunteers who bake the cakes, clean the hall, take the money and pay the bills, would soon run out of sugar and goodwill. We have to pace ourselves.

This Island goes crazy in summer. How can there be enough people to attend all these events? How can there be so many musicians, actors and artists? Everything concert looks like something I’d like to catch. Well, I’ll manage to get to something one of these evenings. The theatre maybe, or a ceilidh in the hall up the road. Meanwhile, would you throw that stick on the fire and pass me another marshmallow?

Events Calendar

October 2018
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Some Upcoming Events

Jimmy Rankin shows

November 22 at Trailside Café
November 23 at Harbourfront Theatre Jimmy Rankin's new Moving East (o [ ... ]

Album Release: Andrew Waite

November 2
The Mack In early 2017, Andrew Waite decided to craft a new record. The album feels like  [ ... ]

Eptek Lunchtime Films

October 18 & 25
Eptek Centre The Friends of Eptek Centre’s Lunchtime Film series starts back u [ ... ]

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Filmworks Summerside

Film series is back for 7th season Filmworks Summerside opens for their 7th season on September 12  [ ... ]

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Confederation Centre CEO

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