Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tides in the Annapolis Basin

I know that I have posted pictures of high tide and low tide in the Annapolis Basin before. In some ways it is an easy excuse for a post. In many other ways, the tides are one of the most fascinating aspects of living around the Bay of Fundy. For those who do not know our local geography, the Annapolis Basin is connected to the Bay of Fundy through a narrow channel known as the Digby Gut. Because of our connection, we experience the same tides as the Bay itself. This means that in Annapolis Royal we have a tide in the range of 29 feet (10 meters).

In a community historically attached to the water, the tides were an important part of every day life. The Acadians built dykes and aboiteau to control the tides and use the marshes as agricultural land. Fishermen and sailors from all ages would need to keep a keen eye on the tides to ensure that they had enough water to get in or out of the basin. Ships coming in on the tide would have brought goods ranging from pianos and porcelain to produce and paprika (they also brought products that did not begin with the letter P). The water was our link to the outside world and this was controlled by the tides.

These pictures were taken from the parking lot of the O'Dell House Museum. I know that it is hard to get much sympathy when this is the scene I can expect to see when I leave work. On of my favorite aspects of this scene is that it changes minute by minute. While these pictures show the extremes of the tide, the water is constantly shifting and moving as it rises or falls.

All for now,
RGS













Tuesday, March 30, 2010

On the Rocks in Parker's Cove - Part 3

I suppose that I really do not have much to add to the display of photographs in this post. This collection was taken at about 5:45 this evening and shows the sad end to the tale of the scallop dragger Papa's Boys. After the attempts to get the boat floating again were unsuccessful, a decision was apparently made that the boat should be broken up. This is of course the safe thing to do since there is no need for someone to accidentally get injured crawling around on the disabled boat. There is also no need to add to the already abundant flotsam which floats about the Bay of Fundy.

By the time that I arrived all of the equipment and trawl had been removed from the boat and the excavator was breaking up the hull. The bow had been dragged to the high water mark so that the incoming tide would not carry it away. With new draggers being made of fiberglass, boats with this type of wooden hull construction are becoming a rarity. At 15-20 years old, the Papa's Boys was actually one of the younger wooden boats in the Digby scallop fleet. Many of the wooden boats would be over 30 years old. Ironically, the spot where the bow was sitting was used as a shipyard in the 1980s.

All for now,
RGS













Sunday, March 28, 2010

Port Wade Pier

When I first moved to this part of Nova Scotia we were living in a house in Granville Beach with a wonderful view of the Annapolis Basin. The adjoining property ran down toward the water and the dyked Dentabella Marsh. This was an interesting pasture to walk since there were many birds as well as some old stone fences to discover. On one of my first hikes to explore the land I discovered a long disused feature on the landscape. Knowing that I was in the region that Acadians had fought so hard to reclaim from the Bay of Fundy's tides, I figured that this was an early dyke. The fact that the current dyke was much further out did not seem to register with me. When I mentioned my discovery to one of the long time residents I received a somewhat bemused smile. I was politely told that these were not the remains of an old dyke but the bed for a long defunct railway. I am sure that my friend left wondering about the new guy at the museum. While I had not previously known about the railway, I had no idea about what was found at the end of the line.

The railway in question did have passenger service but, it was established to deliver iron ore from Torbrook to Port Wade on the shores of the Annapolis Basin. To export the ore in a cost effective manner a deep water port was needed. In 1909, the T.J. Drummond Company from Montreal began to expand the existing port Wade Pier. A steam powered winch was brought in to widen the wooden pier and to build a 50 foot loading tower. When trains arrived the ore was loaded into hoppers which were taken to waiting ships via an endless chain. At peak operation, the facility was said to be able to load 1000 tons of ore per hour.

Sadly, the facility was only used for three years. In 1913, there was a dip in the price of iron ore and the mines in Torbrook closed. By 1927, the rails and the ore loading facility had been removed. The Port Wade Pier was demolished in 1985. Today, the visible signs of this endeavour are the remains of the rail bed running along the side of the Annapolis Basin and the freight car turntable slowly being taken over by grass and roses in Port Wade. At some point in the future, I will try to get some pictures for a post on the turntable.

All for now,
RGS

*Note (written two days later)
I came across another source last night and I have some of the history of the railway wrong. I am not going to change this post but, I will make another post at some point in the future. While the railway did begin operation about the time that the Torbrook mine started, it was established to help develop the economy of the Granville region a couple of years before. The history of the Pier is correct.
RGS

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Annapolis Digby Tourism Showcase

Today was the day of the Annapolis Digby Tourism Showcase in Cornwallis Park, Nova Scotia. While we were not as busy as some trade shows, it was still an excellent opportunity to meet with other people in the tourism business and to spend some extra time with the people who were there. It was nice to see some friendly faces and find out what they have planned for this summer. I also appreciate the opportunity to tell potential visitors about what we have to offer in our community. We have a wonderful community and there is no need to hide this under a rock.

As we have the past few years, we teamed up with our friends from the Historic Gardens and our local Parks Canada sites of Fort Anne and Port Royal to build our displays. We were also lucky to be located beside the booths for the Town of Annapolis Royal and the Annapolis Royal 300th Anniversary. One of the advantages of working with the Gardens is that we usually have a lovely flower of some kind in our booth. This event was no exception as we had a early blooming magnolia on display. Another perk of working with the Gardens is that we get to play "Pollinate the Flower". The idea of the game is to get the ball, which is painted like a bee, to roll up hill and drop it into the flower. This game has kept people entertained for hours at trade shows. In the top image Alan Melanson (of graveyard tour fame) is shown in his circa 1605 costume wearing the dinosaur hat that he won.

All for now,
RGS































Thursday, March 25, 2010

On the Rocks in Parker's Cove - Part 2

After dinner tonight I hopped in the car with our five year old and headed over to Parker's Cove to see what had happened to the stranded scallop boat Papa's Boys since yesterday. In all honesty, could you imagine something more exciting to a five year old boy than a shipwreck near his home? Since I was last there, the tide had come and gone a couple of times and it was not raining but, pretty well everything else remained the same. There were still lines of cars along the road and people gathered on the shore. People were still quietly chatting almost like they were at the scene of a traffic accident. Most importantly, the Papa's Boys was still stuck on the rocks and leaning over to its side.

I will warn you that much of this next paragraph is constructed from conversations I had while I was over at the site. Evidently, an attempt was made to free the boat during the high tide last night. The fuel had been emptied from the boat to both lighten it and prevent a spill if anything were to happen. Witnesses told me that it righted itself momentarily and tipped to the port side before coming back to rest in its previous position. After a night in the strong winds and waves, a few holes have been knocked in the hull and it has started to take on water. Folks standing on the shore were saying that another attempt to get the boat off the rocks will be made on the high tide tomorrow morning. If that attempt fails a few more days of being battered in the Bay of Fundy tides will not help the seaworthiness of the Papa's Boys.

The final photograph in this set was taken from the beach where the boat is stranded as the sun was setting on the Bay of Fundy. While the sight of the helpless boat is a rather sad one, this is still a beautiful location. Sadly the setting sun may be a bit prophetic for the situation we were looking at.

All for now,
RGS




















Wednesday, March 24, 2010

On the Rocks in Parker's Cove

There is something about a shipwreck that catches the interest of people. Maybe, as in the case of the Papa's Boys in today's post, it is because we are seeing a vessel out of it's element. The stark image of a boat stranded on a beach after the tide has receded is a haunting one whether you are looking at a ship from the age of sail or this modern scalloper. In other wrecks, ones where the vessel actually slips beneath the waves, it is entering a part of our planet that is ostensibly foreign to humans. With the exception of submariners and divers, most people will spend very little time under the water. Perhaps it is because we have something familiar in an unfamiliar setting that these wrecks hold so much interest. Why else would there be so much interest in the Titanic almost a century after the fateful night? In all cases, the potential loss of life from a shipwreck is a sobering reality.

Shipwrecks are probably an instance where we, as humans, can feel a bit of humility. Despite the fact that our species has been going to sea for millennia, we have still not been able to tame nature. The waves and wind continue to be their own master. A few moments of inattention can be the difference between a safe return to port and disaster. This is a chance to reflect that despite our best efforts that there are some things that are absolutely outside of human control. Truthfully, a bit of humility in the face of nature is probably a very good thing.

The Papa's Boys washed up on the shore of the Bay of Fundy just east of Parker's Cove, Nova Scotia last night. While it may not appear so from the spot I was taking pictures, the boat is stranded at practically a 90 degree angle from the shore. When the tide retreated (we have nearly 30 feet of tide on our part of the Bay of Fundy) she keeled over to starboard and has been sitting there ever since. An attempt to get the boat floating again was going to be made at high tide tonight. Hopefully they managed to get it floating since the tides are supposed to be a bit smaller for the next month. Whether it is floating or not I will eventually give an update of some form. If it gets free it will probably be making its way to the boat slip in Annapolis Royal for repairs. If it does not, it will be posing for pictures on the beach for a while longer.

As with all good rumors, I have heard a couple of stories of how this happened. The common element in all of the stories was that the crew was asleep. Despite the cause, it does not appear that anyone was seriously injured. A couple members of the crew actually thought that it was quite funny that I was taking pictures for the archives. I am sure that they did not think that their misadventure was going to be recorded for people to see generations from now.


All for now,
RGS

Monday, March 22, 2010

On the French Basin Trail

Over the winter we have been quietly working with the folks at the Clean Annapolis River Project to create and install a series of interpretive signs around the French Basin Trail in Annapolis Royal. These signs will discuss both the natural and cultural history which can be found along the trail. If you would like a less obtuse way of stating the same thing, we will have signs which discuss history as well as the local plants and animals. In preparation for the installation of the panels, Ian Lawrence and I have walked the trail a few times in the last few days. These walks were essentially to confirm our panel locations and to make any last minute adjustments to the stories we are telling. After all, there is really no sense in talking about the turtles in a place where you are not liable to see turtles. I must admit that it is also a fairly pleasant diversion to break up a day at work by walking around a nature trail. A bit of sunshine and fresh air halfway through the day makes the time slip away just a little bit faster.

The collection of pictures in this post were all taken during today's walk around the French Basin Trail. These primarily show Canada geese and muskrats but there are also a lot of other animals (especially ducks) in evidence. The geese and muskrats just happened to be offering the best photographic opportunities on this day. The little muskrat you can see swimming past the goose in the top picture actually turned around and chased the geese into the water. After some hissing and flapping of wings the geese hit the water and the muskrat carefully examined the spot where they were standing. I am sure that he was looking for some eggs to steal. I also had my eye on a couple of turtles but they plopped into the water before I could get a picture.

All for now,
RGS




















Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rothsay Masonic Temple Bridgetown - Part 2

This post is an update on an earlier post I made about the Rothsay Masonic Temple in Bridgetown. At that time, the building had ceased operation as a Masonic lodge and was in the process of being sold by the Town of Bridgetown. I understand that a private developer has purchased the building with plans to renovate it for use as a venue for receptions.
Now, this update is not really an update on the status of the building. While I am very happy to see that something positive is going to happen with this terrific old building, that update is for somewhere down the line.

What caught my interest today was an archival image which I came across while looking at the Paul Yates collection which we have been digitizing at the O'Dell House Museum. Precisely dated, this image shows the building as it looked on August 3, 1915 at 5:30pm. I really must admire a photographer who records that much information about the time his pictures were taken. When I am dating archival pictures I am often happy if I get the right decade never mind the right month, day or minute. Since the building served as a Presbyterian church from 1871 to 1921, this is what it would have been used for when Yates shot this image.

If you compare the cropped version of the archival image with the image I took a couple months ago, you can clearly see what got my attention. It is almost like the difference sticks straight up in the air. Having seen this picture, I must admit that the truncated steeple just does not do justice to the building. The height of the original steeple makes the entire structure look lighter. This is because the original steeple draws the eye past the roof line which is otherwise the dominant feature of the structure. Despite this, with all the work needed on this building, I can not see steeple restoration being too high on the agenda of any new owners.

All for now,
RGS

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Victorian Hair Wreath

I really should not judge an artifact in this way. As a museum, we keep artifacts which are representative of the history of our community. This history obviously takes many different forms and shapes. At our best, we are trying to collect artifacts which represent the breadth of human experience in the Annapolis Royal region. My problem is that there is one particular type of artifact that is found in many museum collections which I find horribly creepy. Not creepy in the watching a scary movie or having some fun with your friends on Halloween sort of creepy. I am talking about a shivers up the spine and a feeling of mild revulsion sort of creepy (I have been known to be overly dramatic by times). If you have not yet guessed from either the title of this post or the photographs, I am talking about Victorian hair wreaths.

I suppose I should explain exactly what these artifacts are because most people are unlikely to encounter a hair wreath today. Essentially, these are a memorial wreath made by twisting or sewing human hair around a wire to create intricate floral designs. Patterns and instructions for wreaths, as well as other hair related crafts, were found in places like Godey's Ladies Magazine. The hair flowers were arranged in a horse shoe type design with the open part of the shoe facing up. Wreaths of this sort were often made using hair from different members of the same family when they perished. The hair would either be saved in a hair keeper (creepy in its own right) or made into a design which could be expanded as the need arose. In some of the more elaborate examples I have seen there is actually a photograph of the deceased included in the middle of the design. When finished, the wreath would be placed in a shadow box and displayed in the house. If you had not already guessed, it is the human hair from dead people element which I find creepy. I should stress that not all hair wreaths were made as memorials. Some were made by schools or church groups as a project. While these are mildly less objectionable, I still find them creepy by association.

I must admit that I do admire the skill involved in creating a hair wreath. It would not be easy to work with a material as light or as fine as human hair. When I am able to put my visceral reactions behind me, I actually think that they are strangely beautiful. These artifacts are also an excellent entry point for discussions with visitors about the intricate world of Victorian mourning customs. The memorial wreath in this post comes from the collection at the O'Dell House Museum.

All for now,
RGS

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

That is one Big Lobster

This is going to be another short post tonight. We have company at the house this week so I am trying my best not to be entirely rude by retiring to the computer for long periods of time. The fact that the computer is located in our guest room is also cutting my writing time a bit shorter.

For some reason I am greatly entertained by this picture. As I look at this scene, I almost find it comical (although, I am sure the lobster would not agree). The gentleman in the picture has obviously put on his best suit an tie to have this photograph taken. His hair is nicely slicked to the side and he even has an embroidered handkerchief in his breast pocket. These are clearly his best "Sunday go to Meeting" clothes. You can sense a great feeling of pride that he has caught this humongous lobster.

What amuses me is that I find his clothes to be somewhat ad odds with the image of the lobster hanging in the air. This is not a man who was going to sit down in a plush New York restaurant to a lobster dinner. If you look at his hands you can tell that this is a man who has spent a life on the Bay of Fundy hauling traps and trawls. In this picture he almost looks like a magician who has just pulled a crustacean out of his hat. By the way, it is indeed a real (albeit cooked) lobster. Under magnification you can see lines of water running across its claws.

This photograph comes from the Paul Yates collection in the Annapolis Heritage Society Archives. Mr Yates was a professional photographer originally from Philadelphia who established a studio in Digby, Nova Scotia. This photograph was probably taken about 1910.

All for now,
RGS

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Diversion

This really is not much of a post tonight. I am currently trying to write my column for Edifice Old Home Magazine. From the fact that I am making a blog post in the middle of writing that article, you can guess how much luck I am having. I am in a period of knowing where I want to go but, the road I am on just does not seem to be getting me there. With a bit more mental anguish I will get the article figured out. Perhaps this diversion will help.

In the meantime, today's photograph is of the Powder Magazine at Fort Anne in Annapolis Royal. This 1708 building is the oldest building owned by Parks Canada. This image comes from the Annapolis Heritage Society's Samuel Newton Weare collection.

All for now,
RGS

Sunday, March 14, 2010

1759 "Anaplus Rial" Powder Horn - Part 2

A short while ago I wrote, quite excitedly, about a powder horn recently purchased by the Annapolis Heritage Society. Including a visit with Canadian Border Services, it was a somewhat twisted path the horn took on its way back to Annapolis Royal. We first learned of the horn back in the summer when it was mentioned in an online article. The article, a review of an antiques show in New Hampshire, just happened to single out the horn as an interesting artifact which was on sale. In fact, the article actually mentioned that the horn had sold at the show.

Now, because the article mentioned Annapolis Royal as the name written on the horn, it came up in the Google Alerts of Anne Crossman, one of the board members of the Annapolis Heritage Society. For those of you unfamiliar with Google Alerts, this is a service which searches the internet and sends out a daily email containing internet postings with selected keywords. Thankfully, Anne had included "Annapolis Royal" in her keywords. The article was a mixed blessing. We now knew that a 1759 Annapolis Royal powder horn existed but we believed that it had been sold.

At this point, Dr. Barry Moody, President of the Annapolis Heritage Society, decided that he was going to take it upon himself to contact the seller to see if we would be able to get some pictures of the horn. He learned that the online article was incorrect and that the horn had not sold. This set the stage for a discussion at an AHS board meeting where we decided that we were interested in purchasing the horn. Our feeling, then as now, was that the horn was an important artifact from our community that we would like to bring back. We struck a deal with the seller and our artifact was on the way back to Annapolis Royal.

As the Tom Petty song says, the waiting is the hardest part. After a couple of weeks it was a letter rather than a powder horn which arrived in our mailbox. The letter told us that the artifact had been detained at the border and we needed to hire a customs broker or get to the nearest customs office to fill out the paperwork ourselves. After waiting for a day with passable weather, a group of us took a road trip to Yarmouth to sort out the paperwork. Our customs agents did not seem that interested in our plight until we explained what the detained artifact actually was. When they heard that we were repatriating an important piece of Nova Scotia history, they really could not have been more helpful. After a few more days of waiting for the powder horn to arrive from its detention centre in Montreal, it arrived in Annapolis Royal where it was unpacked by a very excited Museum Director. I feel privileged to be the first person to see this artifact in the place of its creation since it left in 1759.

All for now,
RGS

Friday, March 12, 2010

When Recreations go Wrong

Ok, I realize that sometimes when historic recreations are done the main idea is for the participants to have some fun. The people in costume are there to add some colour to an event. If those in attendance come away with a few ideas about the history which is on display so much the better. For the most part I can readily accept this. Heck, I even have a couple of historic costumes which I have been known to trot out for special events. Recreations can play a very important role in fostering community pride as well as teaching people about their heritage.

Living in Annapolis Royal, I also know that this is a community with a long history of historical recreations. I have seen pictures, videos and scripts chronicling over 100 years of pageants, recreations, plays and memorials. Most of the time I look quite contentedly at the archival material. Every once in a while, I come across an image like today's photograph which makes me cringe.

On the face of it, this is a very simple image. It is a postcard depicting a group of men playing the role of Champlain, Poutrincourt and their men at the Port Royal Habitation. The group are gathered in the Community Room and having an Order of Good Cheer celebration. What could be more of a Port Royal / Annapolis Royal event than an Order of Good Cheer celebration? It all seems like good times and some fairly innocent fun. While the costumes are far too clean for a group who initiated a social club in part to stave off the ill effects of scurvy, this is not my problem. Nor is the fact that there are some rather cherubic celebrants when the group should be showing signs of malnourishment. Being rather cherubic myself, I really cannot find fault. What makes me cringe are the two very caucasian looking Mi'kmaq relegated to a spot on the floor in the corner of the room. There they sit wearing some form of Willie Nelson style wig with a feathered headdress from a cowboy movie.

For the most part, this is an issue of how history is interpreted today as opposed to how it was interpreted in the 1940s or 1950s when this picture was taken. Even if they were not doing so consciously, the group in the picture are clearly celebrating the European presence while assigning the Mi'Kmaq to a supporting role. Like the pictures I have seen of local men in black-face, I do not believe that this was necessarily done out of malice. At its best, I would like to believe that it was done out of a lack of cultural understanding and a lack of appreciation for the historic roles of the participants.

The Mi'kmaw Sagmo Membertou and his people would have been treated as guests by the French in 1607. While the French did not think of them as equals, on the same note, the Mi'Kmaq did not think of the French as equals. As the French knew, without the help of the Mi'Kmaq, they would not have survived their first winters on the shores of the Bay of Fundy. These were not people to be relegated to a space on the floor while the French celebrated. When they were invited, the Mi'Kmaq would have been a central part of the festivities. Portraying them as mere supporting players does little justice to the story or the people.

Sadly, recreations of this sort end up doing more harm than good. If recreations are to be anything more than colour, the participants should have an understanding of the story they are telling. These events must be approached with cultural sensitivity and inclusiveness.

All for now,
RGS

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Terror in Lower Granville - 1807

I am sure that there is a directly inverse relationship between the joy that I find in reading this letter and the horror that Darby Cronin had when he was writing it in 1807. Historically, this letter is an absolute gold mine. The document itself is a written complaint about the behaviour of Thomas Hanley who had been threatening the inhabitants of Lower Granville. Not only does it tell a story which has fallen out of common memory but, it gives us a great deal of insight into the lives of people living along the Granville shore in 1807. Now I ask you, what more can a humble Curator who enjoys telling a good story ask for?

A fascinating element of this letter is the claim that, if war came with the United States, Hanley claims he would pilot a vessel through the Digby gut to essentially lay waste to the community living along the Granville shore. Not a particularly charitable sentiment. While this may have been hyperbole on the part of Hanley, it shows local knowledge of an evident political tension with the United States. This tension would of course erupt into the war of 1812 a mere five years later.

Now to counter my excitement at the contents of the letter, you really have to feel for Darby Cronin who was the author. The poor man obviously feared for his life. Nobody would appreciate a madman wandering around their house and through their fields with a musket and bayonet. For someone who had lived through the horrors of the American Revolution, this must have seemed hauntingly familiar.

Sadly, I do not know what became of Thomas Hanley. Did he join an American privateer in 1812? Did the local Constable come for him? Did he find a 19th century version of anger management? On the other hand, after some sleepless nights Darby Cronin went on to have a prosperous life along the shores of the Annapolis Basin where he worked as a storekeeper, school master and ship owner.

All for now,
RGS

The Complaint of the under named Subscriber
Against Thomas Hanley

Thomas Hanley has told me that he positively would take my life, and I can be qulifyed on the Holy Evangelist that I am Dealy and Ourly afraid that he will Execute his Wicked Design,
He has told John Johnson, John Sidicust, Wm. Anthony, Mrs. Harvey and others that he was determined to drive lead bullets true one or more men in this settlement before many days – He has been Several times true my fields where he Expected I was at worke Inquiring for me with a loaded musket.

He has been Seen at all times of the Day and night for about twenty Days back going up and down the Road with aloaded musket pistol & some times abayonet, He has made use of the following language at Different times for about twelve days past that is, he hoped that american war would take Place, and Swore by his meaker, and that he may be Damd, if he would not Enter on board of american Privateer pilot her into the Gut rob all the inhabitant And Slauter everry One of the that he could find in one night

George Harvey and his wife, James Sidicust, Jack Sidicust, Michael Dugan, Wm. Sidicust & Wm. Anthony Each and Everry one of the above mentioned people is Ready to be qualified to this treatning language of Thomas Hanleys & the all say the will much more if the are called for before the Authority, Most all the people in this Lower End of the Settlemt is very much afraid of his Conduct and Most Certainly your Very Humble Servant

21 July 1807 Granville Darby Cronin

Monday, March 8, 2010

Fort Anne's Last Soldier

It must be a strange experience to know that you are the last person to ever do something. You would wake up every day knowing that after you stop there will never be another person to replace your skills or knowledge. It must be an isolating feeling but, obviously, this is not an unheard of experience in the course of human endeavour. Trades and skills pass out of use and spoken languages die all too frequently. For each skill or language that ceases to be used, there must be a last individual. This feeling of being the last person must have been one experienced by Andrew Gilmore, the last soldier at Fort Anne.

Fort Anne (under various names) was an active military station from the time of the arrival of the Scots and the establishment of Charlesfort in 1629. The fort itself passed through many hands but there was always an active military presence. When the regiment marched out and the fort was decommissioned in 1854 certain members of the British military decided to stay in Annapolis Royal. One of these people was Andrew Gilmore who received special permission from Queen Victoria live on the fort grounds for the rest of his life. Here he had a building which housed both his cobbler's shop and his living quarters. He was renowned for his "shoe packs" which evidently combined the qualities of a moccasin with a hard soul and heel. I wonder what life would have been like for this old soldier living in a town that was quickly trying to reinvent itself as a shipping and shipbuilding centre?

In today's archival photograph he is shown standing in the sally port at Fort Anne with the officer's quarters in the background. Even in this picture taken many years after his active service ended, you can still see the military bearing in his pose. Andrew Gilmore died in 1894 at age 78. He lies buried at the garrison cemetery with the epitaph "The last British Soldier to stand sentry on the old fort at Annapolis".

All for now,
RGS

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Witch Hazel at the Historic Gardens

My quest to find a few signs of spring took a big leap forward today with a trip to the Historic Gardens in Annapolis Royal. Trish Fry, the Manager of the Gardens, had mentioned at the end of last week that the witch hazel plants had come into bloom. At this point in the winter, I am excited to see anything remotely reminding me of spring. So, camera in hand I made my way to the Gardens on a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon. What better time to get a few pictures of our first blooming plant of 2010. When I arrived at the Gardens, I thankfully met Trish (a superb photographer) who was heading out to take some pictures of the blooms herself. I am sure that she saved me at least a half hour of wandering around wondering where the witch hazel bushes were.

I must admit that I vaguely recognized witch hazel as a medicinal plant but, I really did not know much about it. I was interested to learn that extracts from the bark and leaves have uses ranging from aftershave to treating hemorrhoids. I ask you, what more can you ask of a plant? Well, evidently branches were also used for dowsing as twigs from the hazel were used in England. If only I had known this when I made my post last month about the instructions for making a divining rod from 1766. I also think that the witch hazel's ability to launch mature seeds some 10 meters is fairly interesting. I will try to remember to watch for flying seeds as I walk through this part of the Gardens in the fall.

The one oddball picture in this lot is of some snowdrops which were in bloom on the other side of the Gardens. Snowdrops are always a sure sign that warmer weather is eventually on the way (plus or minus a few more snowstorms). I should also take this opportunity to once again remark at how lucky we are to have a facility like the Historic Gardens in Annapolis Royal.

All for now,
RGS