Helena Observatory,   North Alton, NS

St. Bernard Blather: 2013

26-Feb-2024 09:56 AST 26-Feb-2024 13:56 UTC


Much has happened since the last update. Furniture has been moved; new rugs have been laid; the lawn has been mowed; fences have been built.

On the Canada Day weekend, I built a fence around a large part of the lawn for Larkin to run in. We wanted to have it ready sooner, but I had to special-order the materials. The fence is four-foot-high wire mesh, supported on metal T-posts. We have found that that style is almost invisible. Since Larkin isn't interested in jumping, it is quite adequate to ensure her safety.

When I had it finished, we opened the gate to the new area and let her out. You should have seen her go! It was the first time she had been able to run free in a couple of months. She ran about eight laps around the garden, going flat-out. She cornered around the shrubs at 50 km/h, leaning into the turns at a 45 degree angle and spraying divots in all directions. And the best thing was seeing the big goofy grin on her face as she thundered past us!

The fence had to include a gate for the lawn mower. Mowing the lawn here is more than vanity. It is the only way to keep the ticks under control. Every time Larkin comes in, we have to check her for ticks. Often, she has several. We check ourselves regularly, too. The ticks live in shrubs and tall grass, so keeping the lawn under control is a necessity.

The weather, however, makes lawn mowing a challenge. We have had a lot of rainy weather; the locals are all complaining about the unseasonably wet spring. Temperatures, however, have been warm, making for ideal grass-growing weather. The moment the grass dries out enough to be mowed, everyone is out mowing their lawns, because you never know when you might get another opportunity. I am going to have to get a bagging attachment for the mower, because raking up the long grass after it has been cut is a major chore.

We have a good hardware store and a small supermarket in Weymouth. Our main shopping destination is Digby, which has a larger hardware store, a Canadian Tire, an Atlantic Superstore and Sobey's. For specialty items, we have to go to Yarmouth, an hour away on the interesting old highway or 45 minutes on the boring new highway, or New Minas, an hour and 45 minutes up the Annapolis Valley. Anything else, we order over the Internet, and it gets delivered by UPS (typically with the signature UPS hole in the box, but no merchandise damaged yet).

We have done a little bit of exploring around the area. If we are feeling nostalgic for the hippiedom of Denman Island, Bear River is a short drive away. There are lots of artists and crafts people there, and they have a very nice gallery displaying their wares. We have also visited Annapolis Royal, the oldest permanent European settlement in North America, where they have a big outdoor farmers' market every Saturday, as well as a good health food store. There is also a very active theatre there. What a treat it will be to be able to stay to the end of an evening play without having to rush to catch the last ferry home!

All along the "French Shore", they have a series of musical performances running all summer, called "Musique de la Baie". ("La Baie" is Baie Ste. Marie, St. Mary's Bay) Every evening of the week, there is a performance at a different venue. Our local restaurant in Belliveau's Cove has its session on Tuesday evenings. Last Tuesday, we went there for supper and music. Supper in these parts is slim pickin's: the menus are mostly seafood and quite un-vegan. However, we had some good fries and great apple pie (no ice cream), and the music made up for it.

There used to be a series of classical music concerts in the big stone church in St. Bernard, which we were looking forward to attending. However, there is no sign of a concert schedule this year, either on the Internet or in pamhlet form. We suspect that the Harper Government (as they like to be called) cencelled the federal grant that had supported the series in the past.

The Acadian shore is an interesting drive. Though divided into named regions (probably the original Catholic parishes), of which St. Bernard is one and Belliveau's Cove another, it is really one continuous village most of the way to Yarmouth. Economically, the area is depressed because the tourism industry dried up when the ferry from Bar Harhour, Maine, to Yarmouth stopped running a couple of years ago. The only industries left are fishing and shipbuilding. Yet, the houses are all well-kept, with neatly mown lawns. You can sense a feeling of community pride. Statistically, the area has the lowest crime rate in Nova Scotia.

The French language spoken here is a unique dialect. It is much more anglicised than other French dialects (I have heard, "C'est vraiment weird, ça!"), yet it includes many archaic words from 17th-century French. The rhythm of the language is totally unlike Quebec French, so if I didn't already know what language it was, I wouldn't be able to identify it from hearing it.

Wendy's parents came down for an overnight visit last month, which was a nice treat. They were happy to be able to see our house and yard. Wendy's father came down again yesterday with a friend of his from Germany who was on vacation. Both were brief visits, but very pleasant.

Today, Wendy and I walked down to the beach at low tide. Our 60-foot stretch of waterfront requires a serious bushwhack to get to it, so we walked down the road to a semi-public beach access and walked back along the rocks to see our beach. We located it by GPS and determined that cutting a trail to the beach would be quite feasible. Project #273.

The pictures in this diary entry are: 1. the living room, with antique mantlepiece and modern wood-burning fireplace; 2. the living room, looking the other way, through the kitchen to the dining room; 3. the dining room; 4. the sun room; 5. "our" beach; 6. a load of firewood being delivered, with Wendy's father looking on.


We are gradually getting the house in order. The movers arrived a day earlier than we had expected. As with any part of this whole operation, there were logistics to be worked out. The moving truck was a big highway rig, and there was no possible way it could back into our driveway. So, we had to arrange for a small cube van to shuttle our belongings from the big truck. Which, in turn, meant we had to find a suitable location to transfer everything between the two trucks.

We found a seemingly perfect spot - the parking lot of a vacant store - and secured permission from the realtor handling its sale. But the day before the truck arrived, the owner blocked off the entrance, so that was out. After scouting other locations, we ended up "borrowing" the parking lot at St. Bernard's Church.

We also had to find a suitable location to off-load the car from the moving truck. We managed to arrange to use the loading dock and ramp of the local moulding mill.

All the logistics worked out, and after a busy day of unloading, we had a house full of boxes. The next day, we assembled the bed, unpacked the essentials, and moved in. Since then, we have been unpacking like mad. We haven't necessarily found a place for everything, but at least most of it is visible.

We managed to find takers for most of the moving boxes, so they are gone. The packing paper is bagged and awaiting the start of the heating season, to be used as fire starter.

The previous owners left some junk in the barn, so we have had a crash course in the somewhat Byzantine waste management rules. All garbage has to be separated into paper, other recyclables, compost, and other garbage. Recyclables go into clear blue bags; garbage goes into clear bags; compost goes into a green wheelie-bin. You can put out ten items on any one garbage day. With a barn-load of junk, I called the municipal waste-management people and got a special one-time dispensation to put out 20 bags this week.

One of my tasks this week was to build a pee-pen for Larkin. The poor hound has had to be on a leash every time she went out. I spent one afternoon digging and pounding in posts, and another stringing up the fence mesh. Larkin is not a jumper, so the fence is only four feet high. I still have to build a couple of gates in it. For now, they are just fenced off along with the rest.

Larkin explored it yesterday evening, but this morning was the first routine use of the pen. When she came in, she was all giddy and excited, running and play-bowing. You could tell she was happy to have her own pee-pen back.

We have other four-legged critters in the yard. Early in the morning, we often see bunnies hopping around. This morning, there was a family of three deer, hungrily eyeing the flower garden.


We have been gradually decompressing from the journey and starting to get things organized at the house.

It had been standing vacant for a year, so all the systems were off. We had to get the electricity and water running. In addition to the front door key passed to us by the realtor, there were a bunch of keys on the kitchen counter that we had to identify. (Most of them don't do anything useful.)

Today, Wendy borrowed a vacuum cleaner from a neighbour and did some de-cobwebbing while I gathered junk from the garage, barn and toolshedfor hauling to the dump. Not that there was a huge amount - this isn't like the place we bought on Denman, which had been an actual junkyard - but enough that we want it disposed of before the furniture arrives.

I have most of the electrical system figured out. Learning a new house includes learning which switch operates what light or appliance. We have most of it figured out, though there is one thermostat whose heater I have not yet located.

We have mapped out what furniture is going where, at least initially.

One of the challenges we are having is getting our Internet, and especially our email, sorted out. When we cancelled our phone and Internet on Denman Island, Telus was supposed to retain our email accounts. Of course, they didn't. I have had them reinstate the mailboxes, but I still need to get our proper aliases set up. Unfortunately, I am having trouble getting onto the Telus site to set them up - it no longer recognizes me. Which means yet another excursion into voicemail hell to talk to a tech support person.

What makes it especially frustrating is that we have Internet at the rental cottage where we are currently staying, but no cellphone coverage. At the house, the phone was connected, but there was no Internet. So, it was with great relief that we saw a van from the local service provider pull into the driveway to install our Internet antenna.

That's right, high speed Internet here is wireless. It is the only way to get high speed to a large rural area and still manage the infrastructure costs. Our signal comes across the water of St. Mary's Bay from Digby Neck, a distance of about 5 km.

Tomorrow, I will take the laptop to the house and try to get through to Telus to straighen out the email mess. We will probably get email through the local provider, but we'd like to keep the Telus mailboxes for a while for continuity (though the continuity so far hasn't worked too well!).

The weather here has been clear and dry, though a bit cool and windy. We have taken Larkin on a couple of sections of the local rails-to-trails hiking trail, as well as around the local roads. One thing we have to watch out for is ticks. This is the height oof tick season, and on our first walk, we all came back with several ticks. For now, Larkin is not allowed to sniff in tall vegetation, which she accepts with some irritation. We have to check her and ourselves after every walk.

The seasons here are about one month behind those on the west coast. The trees are just now starting to think about opening their buds. The daffodils are in full bloom, and a few tulips are starting to show a hint of colour.

The prime garden pest here is rabbits. There are deer around - we have seen their tracks in the yard - but not in the numbers we are used to. Our garden this year is likely to be an afterthought. However, we brought some Denman Island garlic with us, which we will plant as soon as we get a chance.


If you have been wondering what happened to Denman Diary, there is more to the story than I revealed in December. Those of you living in Denman have probably heard that Wendy and I have moved to Nova Scotia. For those who didn't know that, well, now you know.

We kept the move a secret from Wendy's parents until this week, because we didn't want them to worry about us, or about all the required arrangements. We broke the news to them in person a couple of days ago, so the veil of secrecy is lifted. One of the reasons for suspending Denman Diary was to avoid accidentally letting word slip. Almost all of our activity for the past few months revolved around preparations for the move, so it was getting hard to say anything about what we were doing without mentioning it somehow.

We also swore fellow Denman blogger Harold Birkeland to secrecy. So, Harold, if you are reading this, feel free to comment on our move to your heart's content.

Of course, the title of this diary will have to change. We are a little busy right now, but I will be reorganizing and reformatting my website. The primary focus will be astronomy.

Anyway, the move, hair-pulling though it was, has, to this point, been successful. We flew out, mostly for the benefit of Liesl the cat and Larkin the greyhound. The logistics of the operation were complicated. Wendy flew out first, on Sunday evening, with Liesl as checked baggage, so as to be in Halifax before Larkin. Then, first thing on Monday morning, I shipped Larkin, whose crate was too big for baggage, on Air Canada Cargo. On Monday afternoon, once I was sure she was checked in, I flew out. We all met up at the airport hotel in Halifax around midnight Monday, and yesterday we drove down the Annapolis valley to our new home in the Digby area.

We are staying at a housekeeping cottage a couple of kilometres from our new house while we wait for our furniture to make the long trip across the country. The ETA for the furniture is May 10th. The house and property are gorgeous. Wendy, who hadn't seen it in person before yesterday, likes it, much to my relief.

We'll be doing some cleaning and tidying in the next few days, as well as finding our way around the community. The post office is much like the Denman post office - we were already known when we walked in, having talked to them on the phone and had them hold our redireected mail for us. We already have our library cards, and have checked out the local grocery and hardware stores. Tomorrow, we are going to explore the shopping in the "big town" of Digby.

Thanks to all who have helped us in making this move. You know who you are. Your help has made the transition much easier.

Now, if I could just get my email straightened out...