Friday, August 31, 2012

fredericton fun

You may have noticed that I blog quite a bit about Fredericton.  So when Tourism Fredericton approached me to be a contributing blogger on the new Fredericton tourism blog, I jumped at the chance.  The blog launched yesterday and as we head into the long Labour Day weekend I kick things off with 10 ways to make the most of your last summer weekend in Fredericton.

How will you be spending the Labour Day weekend?

Just a few of my favourite Fredericton things: the skyline at dawn, walking in autumn leaves, cozy shops, paddling the river St. John, pipe bands, galleries, cappucino, Kings' Landing, apple picking.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

to the lighthouse

Swallowtail Light is one of the iconic symbols of Grand Manan. Not only because it's undeniably picturesque but I think too because it's the beacon greets everyone arriving by ferry and it's one of the last landmarks you see as you leave. No matter the purpose or duration of your stay on the island, sailing round Swallowtail bookends everyone's Grand Manan experience. 

The light was first lit in July 1860 following increased calls for a new light on the northern end of the island after the January 1857 wreck of the Lord Ashburton.  (The light was originally fueled by porpoise oil!)  Swallowtail was destaffed in 1985 but unlike many destaffed lighthouses the keeper's buildings - house, boathouse, etc - remain intact. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

sardines and songs

Prior to Saturday the last time I spent any significant time in a herring shed, I was “stringing herring;” standing in front of a seemingly endless bin of fish and one-by-one poking a pointy stake in through the gill and out through the mouth so they could be hung from the rafters in the smokeshed.   A full stick earned me something in the neighbourhood of a dime.  I remember it being tedious and smelly and when I closed my eyes that night all I could see were herring heads staring up at me.  But I also remember sea breezes blowing through the shed, the sound of gulls and the kind of boisterous camaraderie that springs up from sharing a day of manual labour.   There weren’t many more days like this down at “The Crick” (the tidal creek in Seal Cove).  The waning smoked herring industry went into deep decline in the 1990s and is now just a memory. 

So it was under very different circumstances 20 years later that I returned to the Crick on Saturday for an afternoon with the Summer’s End Folk Festival artists at The Sardine Museum and Herring Hall of Fame.  The museum is made up of a number of the old buildings and the legacy of the late Michael Zimmer.  (If you’re interested in the back story I recommend going here where my friend Peter Cunningham captures it beautifully.)

The Sardine Museum and Herring Hall of Fame is not a museum as we typically think of it.  There are no interpretative plaques, no faithful re-creations of ‘how things were.’  Instead it’s a rather eccentric and artful jumble of artifacts; relics of a time when herring was king and the smell of smoking fish (‘the smell of money!’ my dad would chime in) permeated our hair, our clothes and our summers.

It’s magical place and the perfect spot to spend an afternoon of music.    

Peter explains the museum's history to Liam Finney, Julie Doiron, Daniel Romano, Ruth Minnikin & Bry Webb 
Bry Webb, Ruth Minnikin & Liam Finney.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

see you soon, carly maicher

Take me with you so I don't have to miss you, 
Take me all the way across the prairies and back
To the bay.
Carly Maicher, See You Soon

Her latest album is called "Hiding" but Carly Maicher's life lately has been anything but secluded.  The singer-songwriter has spent much of this year on the road on a head-spinning Canadian tour with Zachary Lucky. (60 shows in three months!)  And now she's come back to the Bay and more specifically to Grand Manan Island to the festival she started three years ago.   Now I fully confess that I'm biased towards all things Grand Manan but I think the Summer's End Folk Festival is one of the great little gems of New Brunswick's music scene.  Established musicians and new discoveries playing in the open air a stone's throw from the sea? A perfect way to wind down your summer.  

The Festival runs August 24-25 and with just over a week to go, Carly took the time to answer a few of my questions, one island girl to another.

I love that your bio says you're one part wheat field, one part ocean.   How did you end up on Grand Manan?  How does the isolation of the island affect your writing?

Well, my grandparents are from Grand Manan originally! So, there's definitely a deep rooted family connection here. But basically, my family decided to buy a summer home here, and at the time I was looking to get away from Winnipeg, where I had been living. It sort of just happened - it worked out perfectly time wise, and since nobody was going to be living in the house, I decided to take advantage. My original plan was to just stay a couple of months and work on songs, and maybe record a home-made album, but then I just continued staying. I loved it so much that a year went by, and then years just kept going by. I built a little life here and got busy doing normal life things like working, and socializing.
During my time on Grand Manan, I spent a LOT of time alone with nature. I couldn't get over the natural beauty here. It's beautiful almost everywhere, but to me Grand Manan hosts this kind of obvious rugged beauty that's impossible to overlook. At least if you're not from a place like this. So, the environment definitely affected my writing. There's something super romantic, at least to me, about going to a little fishing island. 

Grand Manan is such a special place in general, but definitely became such a special place to me and an important time in my life. It has been such a substantial part of my life, and where I've felt most at home.

Tell me a little about Summer's End - it's no small thing deciding to start a festival on a pretty remote island. 
One of the things that I imagined about Grand Manan Island before moving here was that it would be a place filled with artists and musicians. I had been to Grand Manan before in my younger years on family trips, but never really got to know the culture really well. When I moved here, I didn't really meet anyone who had the same musical interests as me, which was surprising. There is definitely music on Grand Manan - but not specifically folk or traditional music. After a couple years of living here, I started managing a restaurant (Gallaway's Restaurant which is where the festival is held) - and there I began bringing in music from the mainland to see if we could become part of their touring circuit. With music being such an important part of my life, I needed a way to be able to continue doing that on Grand Manan too.
The festival became a dream of mine after living here and realizing that it's the most perfect place in the world for a festival, and I literally just couldn't believe it wasn't already happening here. So with that, I began planning the first one and everything just sort of fell into place. I thought that it would be a really great thing for the community to have a music festival with some music that maybe the culture here hadn't been exposed to yet. I think music can do wonderful, positive things - and that was my attempt at doing something positive within the community.

What's been the most surprising thing about Summer's End?
The most surprising part about Summers End is actually that the majority of our audience members have been people from away, not people from Grand Manan. This is really interesting! Although it means it is somewhat successful, meaning that our line up typically has some names that should draw, it is also surprising and I'd still really like the local crowd to grow. With there being so many off-islanders traveling to the festival from away, it's become a great tourist event which benefits local businesses - since the attendees are spending two nights on the island, they are contributing to the islands economy also via camping, groceries, restaurants, motels, ferry, etc! 

This year's festival offers up another great line-up - there are better-known names like Julie Doiron and Ruth Minnikin but who are some of the hidden gems / new talent / surprises we can look forward to?
This years line-up is theoretically pretty stacked! Julie Doiron, Daniel Romano, Bry Webb, and the Providers, Ruth Minnikin, and Owen Steel are all already very much so a part of the East coast music scene! People that are up and coming but that you may not have heard of are Klarka Weinwurm (NS), Devarrow (NB), Liam Finney (NS). I'm super excited to have them all involved in the festival!

(If you can't wait for the 24th to take in this music, the folks at SEFF have put together a great playlist over at CBC Music to get you in the mood! )

Summer's End Folk Festival is August 24-25th on Grand Manan.  You can get your tickets in advance on the website or in person at Gallaway's Restaurant (Grand Manan) Picaroons Brewtique (Fredericton) and Backstreet Records in both Fredericton and Saint John.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


It wasn't until my last full day on Grand Manan earlier this month that my dad and I finally made it out onto the water in the kayaks.  While I enjoy a nice sunny paddle, fog gives the rugged island coast a beautiful atmosphere.

We headed out at high tide.  It's my favourite time to kayak.  Not only does it mean we can very nearly launch the kayaks from my parents' front lawn (no lugging kayaks over slippery bladderwrack-covered rocks!) but it also affords a unique view of the coastline.  Since Dad and I began kayaking a number of years ago, I've gained a new appreciation for how diverse the island can be and how quickly it can change from imposing rock formations to soft sandy beaches.
We came upon a trio of deer running and jumping on the bog.
Slipping silently through the water at high tide also allows you to get up close and personal with the local wildlife.  (As an aside: Did you know Grand Manan has no bear, moose, coyotes, skunks, porcupines, or poisonous snakes?)  For my birder friends kayaking is a great way to get those shorebird shots.

Canada geese are messy and we discourage them from coming above the high tide mark at Mom & Dad's cove (using a bell or "Shoo!") but I still enjoy watching them.

High tide kayaking also gives you the chance to thread the needle through some very narrow spaces (although I seem to always find the barely-submerged rock to fetch up on.)

After a slightly soggy but enjoyable paddle and some sea heather gathering it was time to head for home.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

heather sees sea heather down by the sea shore

Now before botanists correct me, yes, this is technically sea lavender (Limonium carolinianum to be precise) also known as marsh rosemary or statice.  But in our house it's sea heather and that's all there is to it!

Could there be a better way to pick wildflowers than guiding silently along shore in a kayak? I'm a lifelong Grand Manan-er but it's only been in the past five years or so that I've discovered sea heather. My childhood home was in a different part of the island from where my parents live now and the conditions weren't right for this flower which grows in profusion in and near salt marshes.
From midsummer to early autumn clouds of sea heather rise from the marshy shores.
Kayaking along the coast at high tide is a favourite activity for my dad and me and once the sea heather starts to bloom its lovely to glide along and pluck it from the shore.  Beautiful when freshly picked, it also dries very well making it a perfect choice for a centrepiece or wreath.  In 2008, we hosted a family reunion at my parents' place and I made table arrangements of mason jars full of sea heather.  Four years later, I still have mine on display.   One word of warning, because the sea heather is often partially submerged by the ocean it will absorb some of the smell of the ocean floor so depending on where you pick it, it can be a little pungent.  I find a little time out in the fresh air takes care of that though.
Sea heather partially underwater at high tide.
A note on the pitcher featured at the top of the page.  It came from the Mavourneen a barque out of Yarmouth, NS which sank off the coast of Grand Manan in October 1866 and now rests under 85 feet of water off Bradford's Cove (all crew saved!).  My father, a nautical historian and underwater archaeologist, dove on the wreck many times and brought the pitcher up in 1973.  It's lived in our house every since.  I can't lie - I was a little nervous to do these photos as I had visions of smashing an artifact that had survived a shipwreck! 

Dad on the Mav wreck in 1973 (a few feet from where the pitcher was found) and his rendering off the wreck on the ocean floor.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

dear pie: f. scott fitzgerald to his daughter

AUGUST 8, 1933



All I believe in in life is the rewards for virtue (according to your talents) and the punishments for not fulfilling your duties, which are doubly costly. If there is such a volume in the camp library, will you ask Mrs. Tyson to let you look up a sonnet of Shakespeare's in which the line occurs "Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds...."


Things to worry about:
Worry about courage
Worry about cleanliness
Worry about efficiency
Worry about horsemanship...

Things not to worry about:
Don't worry about popular opinion
Don't worry about dolls
Don't worry about the past
Don't worry about the future
Don't worry about growing up
Don't worry about anybody getting ahead of you
Don't worry about triumph
Don't worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault
Don't worry about mosquitoes
Don't worry about flies
Don't worry about insects in general
Don't worry about parents
Don't worry about boys
Don't worry about disappointments
Don't worry about pleasures
Don't worry about satisfactions

Things to think about:
What am I really aiming at?

With dearest love.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

maggie and milly and molly and may 
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang 
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing 
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone 
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me) 
it's always ourselves we find in the sea 
e.e. cummings