Family Lines

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Tag: Nova Scotia (page 3 of 5)

The apple of my eye

apple orchard.

Beautiful orchard in the Annapolis Valley, N. S. Photo credit: Fudge Benedict.

It was a ham sandwich. And it was going to be delicious. I had prepared it with Yum Bakery’s Good Hearty Bread (a mix of grains and seeds), a slice of black forest ham, a piece of green, crisp lettuce and a little bit of creamy, golden butter. But I never got to enjoy my creation. Someone else ate it.

I made the sandwich to have for lunch while apple picking, part of a Horton High School band fundraiser. As a trumpet player (and not a good one) I was in a Nova Scotia orchard twisting off apples and piling them in a big wooden box. Our efforts would hopefully help pay for a trip to the U.S. East Coast.

This autumn labour would bear fruit in the spring when we took the elevator up the Empire State Building and went down to the Boston Aquarium. At the time, it was a lot of hard work. The orchard might look idyllic with its red, red apples hanging off the sturdy brown branches amidst pretty velvet green leaves but it seemed like when I picked one Northern Spy or Cortland or Red Delicious, two more took its place. The harvest was never-ending.

The Saturday was a bust too. I had to get up early for the drive out to the Annapolis Valley farm when I just wanted to sleep in for once. It was a chilly and foggy morning too and the tall wet grass soaked my sneakers and made my feet damp and cold. Two things were keeping me going, though: my fantastic sandwich and a chance to see the cute band guy.

I was new to Horton. The large high school was a catchment for smaller rural junior highs. After Grade 9 at Wolfville Junior High, my classmates and I bused it to Horton High for Grade 10. I didn’t relish the idea of going to a new place but it was a chance to meet new friends. Indeed, I was picking apples with a few recently acquired buddies whom I’m still friends with today.

apple orchard.

Those apples look delicious. Just like my sandwich. Photo credit: Fudge Benedict.

Among the unfamiliar faces (to me) was a boy who was tall and skinny with dark brown hair. I don’t remember his name or what instrument he played, only that he was a year older and I liked him. Like-liked him. I had yet to say a word to the guy and I doubt he even knew I was in the orchard but I hoped he would notice me in the romantic, bucolic setting. I was sure the valley mist made my eyes sparkle and my cheeks as rosy as the apples.

My friends and I quickly picked our first tree clean. When we moved onto the next challenge I left my coat and plastic bag — with my lunch in it — under apple-free boughs. My crush wasn’t as industrious as us. In fact, he didn’t pick anything at all. He lounged by a nearby tree, watching us until two of his buddies, one of them a girl, came to visit.

After a few hours of gathering apples my friends and I decided to have lunch. The image of my delectable sandwich enticed me to walk faster to our original tree. I couldn’t wait to have a bite and taste all the hearty ham goodness of my snack.

What’s this? The plastic bag was empty. No trace of bread or meat or even a crumb anywhere. My sandwich was gone. Gone! I wanted to cry and bit my untasty lip to fend off tears.

Then I saw my crush. He was sitting in the same place I left him with his pals. They hadn’t been working at all. Just trolling around the apple tree. An arm’s length away from my sandwich.

apples.

I might not have my sandwich but there are tons of crunchy apples to enjoy. Photo credit: Fudge Benedict.

I could never prove he was the one who ate my fine meal. I could never say it was him. I never confronted him or even asked him if he was the one who enjoyed my lunch. That was the end of my sandwich and the end of that crush.

 

 

A welcome home by Freddy

Freddy Wilson.

Look closely… the figure in the middle of the overpass is Freddy Wilson. This photo was taken in July 2014 when Freddy was waving to motorists on Highway 101 near Hantsport, N.S.

I won’t be headed home to Nova Scotia from Calgary for Thanksgiving this year. I’ll miss the red, orange and yellow of the province’s spectacular foliage. I’ll miss bringing in the wood while smelling turkey and pies baking. I’ll miss my family and seeing how tall my niece and nephew have grown. I’ll also miss the drive from the Halifax airport, where a man stands to greet you, to the Annapolis Valley.

My family home is in the Annapolis Valley. Those of you who live (and whose hearts still live) in the valley know to look up at the Bog Road overpass spanning Highway 101, near the town of Hantsport. There’s usually a man standing on the bridge, rain or shine, waving to the cars and trucks and semis passing quickly below. From the driver’s seat, I can never see the man’s face but I know there’s a smile that comes with his “hello.”

For as long as I can remember this man has welcomed or bade farewell to motorists going to and from the valley. My family used to call him “The Waver.” A friend’s mother called him her “Little Buddy.” I didn’t know much about him until an article came out in the local paper, The Advertiser, in 2007.

The waver’s name is Freddy Wilson and the overpass he stands on is now named after him. He’s been waving for over 40 years and a trip home for me is not complete without seeing him. However, he hasn’t been out and about much. His long-time post was replaced by a new, higher bridge and so he’s not out there as often. That means for a few years I returned to the valley, I never got a wave.

Freddy at his  post.

Freddy at his post.

This summer I was back in Nova Scotia and ready for the drive home. It was around suppertime when we neared the turn-off for Hantsport. Who was standing above us on the overpass? Freddy. What a welcome home. Thanks Freddy.

Words of wisdom

Family_Lines_Annapolis_Royal

Annapolis Royal, N.S.

Snotember

snow.

A Calgary summer day.

A summer snow storm hit Calgary this past week. It wasn’t the pretty pre-Christmas snow that covers up all the dead leaves on the ground and causes kids to rush out to play. No, this was an ugly, messy, very, very cold and very unwanted first week of September snow. Not good at all.

Since all the leaves are still on the trees, the falling snow took many branches along for the ride to the ground. The heavy, wet snow piled up and up and up amongst the green foliage until they went down. All night and day the snap and crackle of the trees could be heard, along with the eventual whoosh of an avalanche of snow and leaves hitting the earth. Now in the sunny aftermath days later, it’s the chainsaws that are making the noise.

City crews and private companies are clearing away the hundreds of pieces of debris strewn across power lines, streets, sidewalks and countless yards. The jagged-edge whir of the chainsaw can be heard just about everywhere above the din of the vehicles and sirens that are usually part of the inner-city babble. The chainsaw sound is more at home in rural areas and I remember it well.

downed trees.

Piles of downed branches. Scenes like this are repeated on many Calgary streets.

My parents used and still use, wood to heat their large two-storey house in Nova Scotia. Evenings were always comfy and cozy beside the wood stove but mornings were another matter. They were cold. On weekdays dad would get up first and get the stove going. On weekends it was us kids who were up first. And freezing. We learned at a young age how to coax the embers of the fire back into a flame strong enough to burn the logs.

In the middle of summer cords of wood would be delivered to our home in the country and stacked on our front lawn. Dad would get out his chainsaw and cut the logs up and throw them into a pile. A pile to be chopped and then in the fall, trucked into our two-car garage. (The garage has never been used for vehicles. Only wood.) When I write “trucked” I actually mean wheel-barrowed in by me and my family: my dad, mom and two sisters.

From ages nine though to 15 I really, really, really, really hated this chore. It wasn’t hard but it was monotonous. Go to the big wood pile, load up the wheel-barrow, walk about 12 metres to the garage, dump the wood, put it on the stack – neatly – pick up the wheel-barrow, walk back and repeat. It was maddening when there were so many other things to do like talk to my friends on the phone.

Later in my teen years I started really liking piling wood. It was exercise and something to do outside when the weather was too chilly for a bicycle ride. As well, teenage years are full of change and piling wood was one thing that always stayed the same. Plus, it didn’t call for a fashion-forward wardrobe.

hearth.

The wood stove in the house I grew up in.

Thanksgiving Day was always the best day for wood piling. Usually this would be the last push to get all the logs needed for winter under the shelter of a roof. We’d start in the morning in the weak sunshine. It was cold but there would be no snow on the ground yet. By mid-afternoon the smell of turkey and pumpkin pie cooking in the oven would waft through the garage door from the kitchen. That would be our reward after a satisfying and good day’s work.

Thanksgiving is several weeks away and winter is supposed to be months away. Since it’s still summer, we’re supposed to be eating ice cream and watermelon and enjoying the last of this season’s rays. Not eating pumpkin pie and shovelling snow. Oh well. Has anyone found any pumpkin ice cream?

The fraying edge of summer

The light has changed in Calgary the past few days, signalling the end weeks of summer. When I left for vacation in the middle of July there were still many sunshine days ahead. Now a chill is creeping into August mornings and I saw my breath yesterday when I went out on to the porch to pick up the newspaper. Summer is fading but I’m holding on to the warmth of my holiday memories. I don’t want to leave them behind. Just yet.

My husband Jason and I travelled to see his family in Toronto. Our flight itinerary put us in Saskatoon for a six-hour layover. I had never been to the flat city before so we thought we’d take the bus into town. Easy. Although once at the airport it was pouring rain. And freezing cold. We ventured out anyway and headed for Prairie Sun Brewery, and a nice respite from the Saskatchewan chill.

Prairie Sun Brewery

The menu at Prairie Sun Brewery. I don’t like beer so I had a pop.

After missing the bus and finally catching the correct one back to the airport, our flight took off and landed in Toronto just after midnight. We had several days of seeing parents and siblings and nieces and nephews and friends. We went to Milton and Waterloo and hit the west end of Toronto. We even had time to relax.

Toronto traffic.

Toronto traffic. Not bad!

Then it was on to Nova Scotia. We were going for a special occasion – to surprise one of my sisters for her 40th birthday. I was so excited about the plan I almost texted her while I was waiting for my luggage to tell her I was home. Thankfully I didn’t and she was shocked (in a good way) when Jason and I showed up on the doorstep.

Blomidon.

Blomidon – the first thing anyone who grew up in the Annapolis Valley looks for on the drive home.

The next week in the Maritimes was filled with party planning, the 40th bash, visiting family, meeting a puppy, catching up with friends over coffee and showing off some of Nova Scotia’s best sights to my husband. Jason and I took a car trip to the French Shore and stopped at Annapolis Royal where Fort Anne sits. The site was established in 1629 and was traded back and forth between the English and French many times during the many wars between the two nations. Annapolis Royal is a lovely town but I don’t think I would have wanted to be a soldier posted there a couple of hundred years ago. Just like I wouldn’t have wanted to be stationed at the Habitation in Port Royal.

Fort Anne, Annapolis Royal.

Fort Anne, Annapolis Royal.

The Habitation was France’s first successful settlement in North America and was established in 1605. I had been to the Habitation years ago as a child and while the replica of the fort is the same as I remembered, there was a lot less activity then in the 80s. Actors used to bring the Habitation alive and fill it with soldiers and bakers and blacksmiths. I guess Parks Canada doesn’t have the money in the budget for that kind of stuff anymore. Despite this, the Habitation is still an impressive piece of history. Its drafty and damp rooms wouldn’t be a place I’d like to stay over the winter. The colonists only survived thanks to Mi’kmaq neighbours. (On a weird note, it was funny to watch some American tourists complaining about the reception for their mobile phones. Man, times have changed.)

Habitation.

The Habitation in Port Royal.

With that in mind, unlike the Habitation settlers, Jason and I didn’t need to hunt and fish for our food. We only had to stop at a restaurant in Digby. My husband ate world-famous scallops and I had lobster quiche. Mmmmm.  We also took a side trip to Bear River. I love this tiny place because some of the buildings are on silts. Bear River is also known as “The Switzerland of Nova Scotia” because it’s in a valley with hills on either side.

Bear River.

Bear River with its buildings on stilts.

Next there was a stop at the Université Sainte-Anne where I went to French immersion in 1997. Sainte-Anne is a small francophone university made up of just over 500 students and the campus is on the Baie St. Marie. We walked around the ground and I found the residence I lived in way back when.

Université Sainte-Anne.

The residence I lived in while at Université Sainte-Anne.

Surrounding the university are the Acadian fishing towns of Clare, Saulnierville and Meteghan –beautiful and unspoiled. It was nice to see all the Acadian flags on the lawns of people proud of their heritage. We would have gone further down the coast but we ran out of time. We will be back. One day.

Puppy.

Quentin, my pup-hew. AKA my younger sister’s new puppy.

Now we’ve returned to Calgary. At the fraying edge of summer. With my memories of a hot and humid July. There were many other things I saw and did on my trip but I’ll save them for another time. Today I’m happy I was able to re-visit history and people from my past and make a connection with them in the present. We have so much to look forward to.

Dykes in Wolfville.

Walking along the dykes in Wolfville.

Moving on in more ways than one

Cabbagetown, Toronto.

Parliament Street in Cabbagetown, Toronto.

I’ve noticed a lot of people moving this weekend. Young people who look around the age of university students. I’ve seen them put clothing and framed posters into cars or trucks and then go back into condos or houses or apartment to get more. When I graduated from Acadia University in the 90s, I had more schooling to look forward to. I went to Ryerson University to take journalism and got another degree. The spring day I moved out of the apartment I shared with two friends in Cabbagetown was an emotional one. Not to mention expensive.

I had hired a moving company to collect my stuff, then take it and me to a storage unit where the vehicle would be unpacked before returning me to the apartment on Parliament Street. The moving company quoted me an estimate for an hour for two guys and it was reasonable. I didn’t have tons of things — just a few items to leave in Toronto for my sister who was headed to grad school in the area in the fall. Two hundred bucks to complete the job was fair.

I met the moving guys on a late morning and saw only one of them was a “guy.” The other was his six-year-old son. How are they going to move boxes and bedroom furniture from the second storey and get to the storage unit and unpack in only an hour? They would need some help.

I did what I could but it took a long time. The day was, as I remember, an OK one. It wasn’t too hot and it wasn’t too cold. Buds were forming on the trees and the sky was overcast. As was my outlook on how the day was going to go.Sign.

There were many other things I had to do to prepare for heading back to Nova Scotia. The big one being spending time with my boyfriend, who would be soon taking off for his home in British Columbia. I wanted this move to go quickly but the packers were moving so slowly, taking breaks and standing around and talking. I mean, the kid shouldn’t have even been there but he was…so get to work!

Two hours later and they were ready to hit the road. I jumped into the cab of the van with them and we drove slowly to the outskirts of TO. There was no choice but to go slow, traffic was bumper-to-bumper and we were forced to crawl down the Don Valley Parkway, an “express” way.

Arriving at the storage unit, we unloaded pretty quickly. But not quick enough to make it under three hours. I was getting anxious as I saw my day creeping by and time flying out the window. Then I saw my money drain out of my not-so-full student bank account.

“Excuse me?” I asked when the mover told me how much I owed him.

The exact amount today escapes me but it was more than what he previously quoted. A lot more. Probably like $400 more. It was not a paid by-the-hour job but somehow it added up to one. Besides, he should be paying me some of that. I did half the work!

I didn’t complain. I didn’t argue. And I don’t know why. Perhaps it was because I was young and didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to say. I knew I was being taken advantage of and yet I paid up. Then he had the audacity to drop me and his son at a subway station to get the rest of the long way home. He had another job to do. (The son didn’t come home with me. I also think six is too young to take the subway alone.)

During this ordeal I couldn’t complain to my parents and let them take care of it. I was an adult. I was on my own. Deal with it. This was a first real-world lesson for me. Only a few days out of university and here was reality saying that not everyone is going to be honest or nice or even halfway decent. Although now I know how to stick up for myself.

A crisp spring

Calgary city view.

A spring afternoon in Calgary, March 21, 2014.

It’s supposed to be spring right now but it’s not. Definitely not. Winter is hugging us tight and is not going to let us go. Usually during chilly February evenings I like to warm up with a bowl full of apple crisp. Right out of the oven. It’s a great way to sweeten dark winter nights and with the snow still flying in March, I think it’s apple crisp time. Despite my terrible cooking and baking skills, it’s one thing I can make.

My mother made supper for the family on week nights when I was growing up in Nova Scotia. The five of us would sit at the table around 6:30 p.m. or 7, after my dad got home from work, to eat our meal. Sometimes we had baked sole, sometimes haddock, sometimes Shepard’s pie and sometimes chicken. We always got dessert.

My favourite treat wasn’t chocolate cake or ice cream or pudding – it was apple crisp. Even when it was piping hot I’d be shoveling into my mouth. Even though it scorched my tongue. Through the burning I’d taste sweet Annapolis Valley fruit, baked into a soft compote. The crisp was also a little bit crunchy – from the topping of oatmeal and butter and brown sugar. Mmmm. Delicious. There’s nothing better when the snow is falling outside and the wind is trying to get in the front door.

Supper table.

My family’s supper, lunch and breakfast table.

The recipe came from my mother’s 4H cookbook from where she grew up – Burris, Ontario. Now it’s been a family recipe for almost 40 years now. My mum taught me to make apple crisp when I was younger. No easy feat as I just don’t like being in the kitchen.

Peeling the apples was fine and my dog, Jasper, would wait for the trimmings. He would gobble them up and want more. I loved the crisp’s topping so much that I told myself when I lived on my own I would make a whole bowl of it and eat it all myself. (I’ve lived on my own for a while but haven’t indulged in a pound or two of topping in one sitting.)

I have prepared the dessert so often that I don’t even need to look at the instructions anymore. It’s often the dish I take to potlucks or serve at dinner parties and it’s surprising no one is sick of it yet. Unless they don’t have the heart to tell me.

It doesn’t matter where I’ve made the apple crisp – from The Gambia, West Africa to Sackville, New Brunswick to Fort Smith, Northwest Territories to Revelstoke, British Columbia, every time the aroma hits me I’m reminded of home, winter nights and my family.

Apple crisp (from memory)

  •  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degree C).
  • Peel and slice about 6 medium sized apples
  • Place the sliced apples in a 9×13 inch pan.
  • Spread 1 tablespoon of white sugar over the sliced apples

Topping

  • Combine 3 cups of oats, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of flour, pinch of salt, ¾ cup of melt butter and mix.
  • Crumble evenly over the apple mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about ½ hour to 45 minutes

Over and out: Waterville Airport

People in an airplane.

Taking my family for a flight at the Waterville Airport, NS.

A tiny airport in Nova Scotia is closing and for many of you reading this blog it won’t mean a thing. But for me, it’s where I first learned to check the oil, feel the wings for dents and bruises, kick the tires and then…fly.

The Waterville/Kings County Municipal Airport has been operating since the late 1970s. The aerodrome is in a nice little spot with its runway right in the middle of the Annapolis Valley. Sometimes the high hills (or North and South Mountain as Bluenosers call them) capture the fog and keep it prisoner in the early morning. Eventually it escapes and seeks refuge in the Bay of Fundy, sitting just over North Mountain. A few years ago I got stuck in the air in that dawn summer mist but that’s another story. For now, I’ll let other memories soar.

A few years ago, in the beginning of this millennium, I moved back to Nova Scotia from Alberta to become a pilot. I had been working as a journalist at a television station and needed a change. (TV isn’t the glamorous job you think it is.) Since I was young, I had always wanted to fly. When I was seven I saw my uncle’s airplane parked at his Winnipeg house and that was that. I wanted to go up in the air.

Learning to fly was cheaper in Nova Scotia, half the cost of Calgary. I moved back in with my parents and got a job at one of the two flight schools at Waterville. I become a part-time receptionist and hired hand helping out with planes.

I spent hours at the flight centre and often had two lessons a day. My very first flight was on a sunny spring day. My instructor Mark and I squeezed into the cockpit of a two-seater Cessna 150, XBR (or X-Ray Bravo Romeo). There was almost no room to move in the 150 but as we rolled onto the runway, it didn’t seem to matter.

Cessna 150.

The first airplane I flew – Cessna 150 XBR – at the Waterville Airport, NS.

Mark took the Cessna up into the air and as soon as we were levelled off – he handed me the wheel.

“You have control,” he said.

“I have control,” I said and pointed the red striped plane north. I flew us to the training area near the house where I grew up. Once I spotted it, a green roof sticking out of the brown forest, I circled a few times, looking almost right into my bedroom. It was a strange thought that, just an hour ago, I was in that room. Bound to the floor. Now here I was, in the air, hanging over my home.

I flew back to Waterville, picking out the runway with ease. It’s right beside the extra-large Michelin tire plant, which is why the airport is now relocating as the factory is expanding. I didn’t land the plane that first flying lesson, Mark did that. Landing for me would come later and I would only learn after a few “crash landings.”

Flying for me wasn’t about the freedom I hear many other pilots describe. It wasn’t about being higher than the ravens and the hawks and the eagles. It wasn’t about escaping earth. For me it was about fulfilling a life time goal. It was about doing something I aspired to do and never thought I would ever have the chance. Getting my private pilot’s licence meant the future was wide open and I could do anything I wanted.

During the year I was learning to fly, 9/11 happened. The airline industry faltered and it was hard for people to find flying jobs. Since then I’ve been taking a few commercial training flights even though it’s expensive and time-consuming. One day I would like to complete that goal too. One day.

With the closure of the Waterville Airport comes the end of flying lessons, parachute courses, ground school and many other things connected to aviation. But it’s not the end of the memories of taking off runway 28 and shooting straight into the sky, a blue sky when the weather is perfect.

“I have control.”

Moments

Photo of a harbour.

Click photo to read quote.
Halls Harbour, Nova Scotia.

Acadia: not only about book learning

Seminary House.

Seminary House residence on the Acadia University campus – where I lived for three years.

Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia is celebrating 175 years of education and innovation. It asked for alumnus to share stories from their Acadia days to mark the anniversary. Here is my contribution that was recently published in the Acadia Bulletin (on page 48: http://bit.ly/1cSLv7b.)

I don’t remember many of my classroom lessons at Acadia. Of course, the knowledge my professors imparted during my four years shaped my mind and gave me intellectual instruction for the future. However, most of my education at Acadia was the life experience kind of learning: the stuff that takes place outside the lecture hall.

My first week at Acadia is a memory that has stayed with me over the past 20 years. Moving my things into Seminary House alongside my high school friend and about-to-be roommate, I was taking a big step. Leaving my parents’ home for a co-ed dorm where I could start being independent – along with about 90 others. As a Sem frosh I was put right into the mix of silly activities and a getting-to-know-you game where I met a lifelong friend. (I was in his wedding party this September.) From that beginning I felt like I was part of something bigger than just going to school.

Classes are small at Acadia, which makes it easy to spot those sharing your schedule. After a couple of days of lectures, one woman introduced herself to me. She said we had three classes in common, intro to political science, English and one more that I can’t remember now. Ah si, it was Spanish.

We became instant friends and joined with four more girls to become the Posse (yes, we named ourselves). We talked, danced, laughed and cried over lots of boys. As frosh we felt so grown-up. But as each year passed we realized we had been so young.

Beveridge Arts Centre.

The Beveridge Arts Centre (BAC), the largest academic building on the Acadia campus.

At the end of our fourth year we knew the lay of the land – the campus from the Beveridge Arts Centre (BAC) to Eaton House. We knew 8:30 a.m. classes were hard to attend but so were 1:30 p.m. classes on Fridays. We knew which meals at McConnell Hall were the tastiest and which were not. We knew if your crush wasn’t at the Anvil, he’d be at the Axe. We knew university was hard work but reality was going to be harder. We knew that from that first day we had built a strong base of support through friendships and knowledge. Acadia taught us that we could do anything.

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