Canada 150 – #14 – A Stormy Past on a Stormy Night.

Canada 150 - #14 – A Stormy Past on a Stormy Night.

An unanticipated result of my Canada 150 photo challenge is that I find myself digging into the past as I build context around some of my photos. Maybe that should have been predictable – I hadn’t really looked at this as a year-long history lesson but it seems to be heading that way.

So, also unpredictably, I now find myself reading about our stormy past on this stormy night – digging into Barry Moody’s book: The History of Annapolis Royal – Volume 2 – 1749-2005. I bought it in 2014 and it has been on my “should read” list ever since, but fiction always wins my vote in reading (my father was the historian in the family, not me!). Nevertheless, I picked it up this morning, opened the cover, and was immediately hooked. Our history is so rich and so interesting, and Barry’s way of writing makes it very readable as well.  Learning lots – no doubt some of this newfound knowledge will shine through as I background future Canada 150 photos.

Thanks Barry for presenting our past in such a good read! You’ll make a history student out of me yet…




Canada 150 – #13 – And here’s to you Mr. Robinson.

Canada 150 – #13 – And here’s to you Mr. Robinson.  (…with apologies once again to Simon & Garfunkel…)

Canada 150 - #13 - And here's to you Mr. Robinson.

In the course of remodelling the Rec Room, I have been checking out some artwork that I haven’t really noticed for some time. One of those pieces is “Sou’wester” by L. Robinson. Laurence Robinson was a teacher in Annapolis Royal, better known as “Rip” Robinson (for reasons unknown to me). He and his wife Helen lived in Annapolis Royal until their deaths in 1986 and 2009 respectively. He had retired from teaching before I hit high school, but my older siblings had him as an English teacher.

Art was a hobby for him, and Mom & Dad had several of his works. This one was has a tag on the back for Chas Dargie & Sons, a long time business in Annapolis Royal for the better part of 100 years (a research project/story for another day). From what I can gather, I believe my parents may have purchased this one as a gift for my mother’s parents, because also on the back of the frame is “Norma” in my grandmother’s handwriting – she was always known for labelling her special things so that their eventual destination would be very clear when she died.

Anyway, here’s to you Mr. Robinson for your work in immortalizing various Nova Scotian scenes through your art.


Canada 150 – #12 – Barbara’s Ball.

Canada 150 - #12 - Barbara's Ball.

I drove back from Bridgetown on the 201 the other day, and stopped to take a photo of what we always referred to as “Barbara’s Ball”. Clearly visible from either side of the river, it was always a sign that we were getting close to Bridgetown. (When you are a kid in a car, Annapolis Royal to Bridgetown seemed like an incredibly long drive so we were always excited to see Barbara’s Ball!).

Most of you will recognize this as the Britex ball, standing sentinel over what was the “Elastic Plant” in the early days, having opened in 1960 as a branch of United Elastic Limited. They made elastic for garments (as opposed to rubber bands). I remember school tours of the plant, and using donated elastic in our gym classes in elementary school – some kind of jumping activity that involved elastic… Much later, the company became Britex. Through the years they were always generous in donations – at the Gardens we still have reams of “Britex fabric” that we use as tablecloths and for decorating for special events.

At its peak, UEL/Britex employed hundreds but sadly modern trade and technology issues led to its demise and it closed in 2004. There are lots of great things about its history, as told in this article I found:

The building is now abandoned and derelict, but Barbara’s Ball still stands sentinel, although certainly not the bright and shiny beacon it once was.


Incidentally, the name “Barbara’s Ball” is attributable to my neighbour Barbara who evidently coveted the ball enough that the rest of us began referring to it as hers… Barbara’s sister Heather Foote can fill in any blanks on that end of things! Call it what you want, it is an iconic feature in the Bridgetown area.

PS – does anyone know if the tower/ball had an actual function?


Canada 150 – #11 – Of Witching and Witch Hazels…

Canada 150 - #11 - Of Witching and Witch Hazels.

Funny where a photo can take you sometimes. I started with the mindset of snagging a pretty picture, so headed out to see how the Witch Hazels were blooming. Which of course led me to consider what, if any, Canadian connection there might be. Which led me from our hybrids to the native witch hazels, which predictably (or not so much) led me to the always popular topic of water divining. Still with me?

Let me start again. Here we have a photograph of one of the Witch Hazels in the Gardens. These Hamamelis x intermedia hybrids are crosses between Japanese witch hazel (H. japonica) and Chinese witch hazel (H. mollis). Their job is to bloom in the winter, and for that alone they deserve an A+, right?

There is another Witch Hazel – H. virginiana – which is native to Nova Scotia among other places. You can see this in the woods in the more southern parts of the Province. It is rumoured that Point Pleasant Park is home to a number as well. It is a fall bloomer, rather than a winter one like the hybrids.

It also turns out that Witch Hazels were a common tree for use when witching for water, an art that has a long heritage in Nova Scotia. In fact, there are still many people who have the gift, and can find water with nothing but a Y-shaped twig, or a pair of coat hangers. It is very cool to watch… and to try!

So my quest for colour took me to an old rural tradition… and as always, I learned a couple things along the way. Oh yes, and in case you were wondering… the name Witch Hazel, they say, has nothing to do with witching/divining/dowsing for water. According to an article written by David Patriquin published in the Herald, “witch” is apparently derived from the Anglo Saxon “wych”, meaning bending or pliable (referring to the stems). “Hazel” refers to its hazel-like leaves. Actually, the article is an interesting read:

The Witch Hazel shown at the top is ‘Pallida’. And below, as a bonus shot, is ‘Jelena’. What a great plant!



Canada 150 – #10 – A Canadian Icon.

Canada 150 - #10 - A Canadian Icon.

I had to run an errand in Digby today, so I stopped to take a photo of one of the Maud murals gracing the exterior of the Digby Visitor Information Centre. Mostly, I was looking for a bright, colourful photo today. But I confess, the story of Maud has always fascinated me so I am happy to use it in a Canada 150 post.

There’s hardly a person in Nova Scotia who is not familiar with the name “Maud Lewis” and at least somewhat familiar with her story. What a great chapter she painted in local history, a simple life that has given the world so much pleasure. Her artwork helped her survive, and was obviously her passion… but certainly she never would have imagined that the works she sold for a few dollars at the roadside would eventually be so popular and so valuable!

The restored Maud Lewis House is on permanent exhibit in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia – worth visiting, or re-visiting, to remind yourself of this great story! There is also a great deal of information on their website.


Canada 150 – #9 – Another Special Birthday.

Canada 150 - #9 - Another Special Birthday.

While Canada’s 150th Birthday is the theme of this year’s photo challenge, there will be other celebrations along the way. The first of those, and indeed one that will be reappearing throughout the year, is the 100th Anniversary of Fort Anne. On January 24, 1917, Fort Anne was designated as a National Historic Site, the first in Canada. This designation came as a result of a community movement to pressure the government to save and preserve this special piece of Canadian heritage. Thus began a federal legacy of preservation of National Historic Sites – there are currently 950 NHS in Canada, of which 171 are administered by Parks Canada.

The public is invited to join us in Annapolis Royal to mark the occasion on Tuesday, January 24, beginning at 10am at Town Hall. Celebrations will involve a re-enactment, sneak previews of the new exhibits, and of course, birthday cake!  Should be fun.

((Note: Event postponed until Friday Jan 27 due to weather forecast))



Canada 150 – #8 – Squirrel Nutkin.

Canada 150 - #8 - Squirrel Nutkin.

You may ask – what does this little character have to do with Canada 150? I am soooo glad you asked!  There are two ties, one obvious and the other not so much. Let me tell you about them.

The obvious: the Eastern Grey Squirrel is native to Eastern North America, and as such we are quite accustomed to seeing them here in southwest Nova Scotia. They have become increasingly domesticated in recent years and thus are even more evident. Their antics are a frequent source of entertainment in the Gardens, although often a source of frustration for our gardeners.

The not-so-obvious: Beatrix Potter, author of Squirrel Nutkin, would be 150 if she were still alive. She was born July 28, 1866, shortly before the confederation we are now celebrating. How’s that for a piece of useless trivia?

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