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It was a spectacular day for a plein air or “paint out” event in and around Murchison Place Park. About 20 artists and onlookers enjoyed the light, warmth and inspiration that a summer morning in July can deliver. Two artists arrived along with Julia Purcell at 6:30 a.m. and set up their easels on opposite sides of the park. Other artists arrived throughout the morning, with baskets, easels and chairs in hand, and set up around the boardwalk and gazebo. Clyde River Artist Julia Purcell spent time with each artist, answering questions and offering tips.

The first thing Julia suggests when painting outside is to set up your easel so you are facing the sun. Then when you attach your umbrella, you and your canvas will be in the shade. The canvas should be upright, not leaning back, to ensure that the lines in your painting are correct. Never place the focal point in the centre of a painting; it should be off-centred to create more interest and proper movement of the eye as one views it. Use a warm colour as a base. Julia used a yellow ochre, diluted with water to create a warm background to her scene. Add the main lines of the painting e.g. buildings and fences, to establish its overall composition and then add colour.

Julia said it is important to not waste time driving around all day in a car looking for a special location, but just pick a spot and enjoy the full experience of painting outside within a landscape.

In the middle of the Fitzgerald’s field of clover overlooking the Clyde River, Julia painted and taught her admiring audience. Julia didn’t get a chance to finish her painting at the event, but she has promised to send us a photo of her work.

Thank you to the artists and onlookers who came out on such a beautiful day. Thanks to the Friends of Clyde River for providing the beverages, Jo-Ann MacPhail for providing freshly baked muffins and Erica and Lisa Ross for set up. A big thank you to Julia for leading this artistic expedition that we all enjoyed so much.

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Shaw (1)After spending summers with her grandparents in St. Catherine’s, Judy Shaw always wanted to live in Prince Edward Island. Upon her recent retirement, she finally had the chance. This past year, she moved to the home that was built for Walter and Margaret Shaw in 1922-23 where she undertook a larger-than-expected job of renovating a place full of family memories. The design of the house is based on a home her grandmother Margaret fell in love with while working as a nurse in Boston.

A little history of the Shaw family…
Judy offered us a brief genealogy of the Shaw family since their arrival in Prince Edward Island. It was Malcolm Shaw and Catherine Livingstone who originally emigrated from the Isle of Mull, Scotland, somewhere around 1806. Malcolm soon started the Shaw Cemetery that later became the St. Catherine’s Cemetery and is now maintained by the community. The original house was 300 yards above the cemetery overlooking the Elliot River, now the West River. She believes it stood within the clump of trees that you now see by the cemetery. Malcolm’s son, Donald Shaw, came over to PEI after he finished school in Scotland. Donald was Walter Shaw’s grandfather. Donald and his wife had 13 children. Their youngest son Alex inherited the farm, as his five older brothers went to the US to fight in the American Civil War. One brother died at Gettysburg, another was wounded at Gettysburg and later died in prisoner-of-war camp, another became a famous heavyweight boxer and lived in Florida, and another brother went to California for the Gold Rush. One of the brothers returned to PEI and lived in a cabin near the homestead.

Alex Shaw and his wife had six children. Alex worked in the courthouse and assisted people in drawing up wills, working out of an office in Bonshaw. The irony of his chosen profession was that he then died without a will. Alex was responsible for where Dunedin Bridge is located. After his death, the farm was left with his wife and six children. They included William (Guy) and Walter who both remained in PEI. Their four sisters went to the Boston area as was popular with young girls in those days. One sister was killed in a train accident, another sister was killed in a car accident, one became successful in Florida, and another sister, Aunt Jean, lived in Plymouth. After Jean died, much of her furniture came back to the farm. The farm property was split in half between Guy and W.R. (Walter). Guy lived in the green house at the top of the hill that the family was born in, and Walter and his wife Margaret built their new house on their portion of land. The two properties were each sold in the early 1930s and moved through various owners, but Walter Shaw bought them both back in the later 30s and they have been in Shaw family ever since.

Renovating the family homestead…
Judy thought her renovation might take a month or so. When the moving company called her to say her furniture had arrived in PEI, she panicked. At that time, the home was almost completely torn apart in the midst of renovation. It was more work than she had anticipated. She was keen to have family input and to respect the original house and its memories. Judy had always considered this home a community place and wanted the blessing of the St. Catherine’s community. She didn’t want to make any changes that the residents would see as taking away the character of the place. She felt lucky that many of the people who worked on the house were local people, and each of them had a story about her grandfather.

Judy set out some design priorities as she approached the renovation. She wanted to keep the warmth of the place and was highly protective of the threshold in the kitchen to the point that each of workers clearly understood, “don’t touch the threshold.” She wanted to refinish the original staircase, douglas fir trim and wooden floors. Her grandmother always had a wood stove in the kitchen. She could not keep the original one, as it did not meet fire regulations, so she purchased a new wood stove for the same spot. She had hoped to maintain the original wood box in the back porch, but as the area was updated, she felt that a new wood box was in order. She also wanted to refurbish the original kitchen door and restore her grandmother’s gardens.

In terms of what Judy wanted to change, she wished for more modern conveniences like a brighter kitchen, windows that opened, a few more closets, a laundry and bathroom area off the back porch and a more open-style living room.

All new electrical wiring was required. As for heating, the house had an old furnace needing replacement and one huge vent that went up through the center of the house which meant that while the furnace was going, walking across the vent could render one airborne. There had to be a whole new vent system installed, so appropriate head space in the basement was sacrificed in favour of comfortable warmth in each room. When they cut the hole for the vent in the living room, they discovered four ceilings. They removed the lower ceilings, opened up the room and added support beams that are stained to look like they had always been there.

Judy confessed the tearing apart phase was difficult. Her instruction to all workers was “think before you cut”. She jokes now that there was some finger-pointing by the workers as to whom actually was responsible for cutting holes. She said that sometimes she had to leave the house while the was work was being carried out.

The home had different varieties of wood flooring throughout that were refinished. The bathrooms had to be updated. The fireplace and mantle featuring black walnut from a tree on the property was sympathetically restored. The kitchen door was refinished after painstakingly removal of multiple layers of paint and stain. It had been the original outside door before the back porch was added.

The front of the house was in the most disrepair and she didn’t want to lose its basic style. She has simplified the design and is very pleased with the result. There are huge windows on what was the outdoor front porch that is now winterized.

She feels all the effort has been worth it. Local St. Catherine’s native Reigh MacNevin, who attended her presentation, was the contractor on the job. Judy said that he was great to work with and remained calm throughout the project. Judy did all the painting and when she ran out of steam, Sheila, Ray’s wife, would drop over to help, which renewed her fortitude.

The home is now bright and the wonderful warmth that she so desired to maintain is there. She enjoys spectacular views from the kitchen bay window and is happy with the rooms throughout the home, although there is still a bit more work to be achieved. The back porch that features a cathedral ceiling will be painted the colour of Island mud which Judy thinks is appropriate for a mudroom in PEI.

“Memories are what make the renovation of a family home difficult,” Judy says. When her parents came down this past Christmas, to Judy’s relief, her father, who was born in the home, said, “I just think this is great” and spent many hours sitting in the now winterized front room fondly looking out toward the country road and across the fields toward the West and Clyde Rivers.

Interesting things found in the house during renovations included a bottle of lineament and a 1921 issue of Grain News in perfect condition.

Walter’s 1966 Chrysler car…
Judy has received calls every year about buying her grandfather’s old car. Her cousin in Nova Scotia owns the 1966 Chrysler that was stored on the property for 34 years. He came to retrieve the heritage auto this past summer with the plan to restore it and drive it back to his son’s wedding in Keppoch this summer.

The gardens…
The gardens will be Judy’s 2014 project. She has loved gardening all her life, so she looks forward to this Spring. The first job will be sowing grass seed to eliminate the mud further to construction work. She wants an old-fashioned cottage garden that will respect the essence of her grandmother’s gardens. Someone in the audience asked about the goldfish pond. She said the old goldfish pond was falling in and has already been filled with soil. The area will become an outdoor seating spot. People recalled the beautiful pond that was covered over in the winter while her grandparents stayed in the city, and how it was interesting to find out in Spring how the goldfish had weathered the cold months.

The barn…
The men in the audience were keen to know what the plans were for the barn. Judy said it is a beautiful barn with a root cellar underneath. One half of barn is in good shape but where the cattle were is in worse condition. Lawson Drake mentioned that Walter’s barn was the envy of many farmers in the area. Judy’s motivation in renovating the barn is to get some sheep. She owns a border collie, so she thinks it would further enrich their lives on the homestead to tend to a small flock. Judy is a graduate of agriculture who thinks the time has come to embark on a practical experience of farming.

A community treasure…
Many people in the audience had wonderful, humorous stories and expressed their grand affection for her grandparents and spoke about entertaining visits to their home. Others remembered how trips through St. Catherine’s meant slowing down by the Shaw property to enjoy the beautiful home and gardens.

Judy, we wish you many happy years in your home and we appreciate your achievements in restoring this homestead and your contribution to preserving your family’s history and the rich history of the area. As one audience member stated, “We look forward to you returning to tell us about the renovations to the barn and gardens another year.”

Author’s note: It is my plan to tour the Shaw family homestead and gardens when this tireless winter has passed and capture the historical beauty of this family and community place.

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Doreen Pound

Doreen Beer Pound, a lifelong resident of Clyde River, has expressed an interest in recapturing some of Clyde River’s past in watercolour and pen. She is accepting submissions of photographs of homes, barns, businesses, buildings, items, or scenes depicting early times in Clyde River and area.  If you or someone you know has a photo(s) that you feel would be of interest and might be suitable, please contact Doreen at doreenpound@gmail.com or at 902-675-2466.

Each submission should include some background information, i.e., location, when it was built, by whom, who lived/worked there, type of business with brief description. If it is a photo of an item, explain what it is and what is was used for. She will select from the photos and create art featuring watercolour and pen that will be displayed at a public showing later this year at the Riverview Community Centre. Doreen’s work will be her contribution towards the Prince Edward Island’s 2014 celebrations. It is her wish that our community’s history be recorded not only in word but also through art. Preferably she would like a good quality COPY of original photos that do not need to be returned.

Doreen has been painting in both watercolour and acrylics but prefers working with watercolours and pen where she has developed a style she particularly enjoys. She credits Julia Purcell, well-known local artist, with introducing her to the fascinating world of sketching and intricacies and magic of watercolours at LEAP, Learning Elders Art Program, held in our community for a number of years along with PEI Seniors College. She has also studied under Henry Purdy, Mary Curtis, Geraldine Ysselstein, Susan Christensen and Anne Gallant, all well-known and respected Island artists.

Here are some samples of heritage photos and her pen and watercolour interpretations:

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Dunedin photo

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pen drawing

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Crossing the river

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Watercolour and pen

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I stopped by Don Northcott’s farm today and his orchard was busy with customers picking apples. Don says it may be the best crop of apples he has ever had. With temperatures in the high teens and not a cloud in the sky, it was a perfect day for such a wholesome adventure. He has a number of apple varieties.

An apple picker from Charlottetown said that she found out about Don’s apple farm on our website. She “didn’t want to drive all the way to Cardigan”. Her family had already filled 5-6 bags and they were coming back for more bags to fill. The apples are so beautiful. I picked up a bag and shared it with my Aunt Hilda.

So for all of you Charlottetown folks, here are the directions:

When you arrive in Clyde River (just 15 minutes west of Charlottetown) on the main Trans Canada Highway, turn right on the Lynwood Road. Don usually has a sandwich board sign out by the highway to direct you. Just drive in the Lynwood Road a short way and make a left on the lane way that leads into the orchard by the big red barn. Bags are provided.

The Clyde River Apple Orchard is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

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This past week, the 13th Annual North American Agroforestry Conference took place in Prince Edward Island and, as part of their program, delegates were offered local tours that included Don Northcott’s farm in Clyde River. One hundred people from places like U.S., Germany, France and provinces across Canada learned about the innovative research and development that Don’s company Phytocultures is carrying out in Clyde River.

Don and his team led the tour through research plots to allow visitors to taste some of the early Haskap berries that will be ready in another week or so. Don sees this as an opportunity to expand his network of contacts as he builds his Haskap operation.

Phytocultures is a horticultural company that has been specializing in Haskap genetics and propagation since the berry’s North American introduction in collaboration with the University of Saskatchewan. Haskaps originated in Japan and the Japanese refer to them as “longevity berries” for their nutritional benefits, offering at least twice the antioxidants as blueberries.

Phytocultures has established a five-variety research plot of Haskap berries. By profiling these new varieties of Haskaps, their goal is to identify critical production and management techniques to aid in crop development, offer production recommendations to producers, determine traits for commercialization and develop a new berry industry. Specific research includes:

  • New variety development for hardiness, yield, taste, harvesting ease and insect and disease resistance
  • Variety profiles for maximum growth performance
  • Selecting a plantation site
  • Pest management
  • Pollination
  • Harvest technology

As Don says, “In apple, strawberry, and grape crops, we know the diseases and we know the particular problems each variety tends to have, the harvest issues, which variety needs fertilizer when, what pests are an issue and how to control weeds. For Haskaps, it is still an open book. There are no sources of information that can be used to answer questions like when to fertilize the plants for best growth and to produce the best berry. We are trying with our production plot to develop initial information to profile the crop and become the go-to source for growing Haskaps.”

“This is a new berry for North America, so it is important that varieties be developed that will meet requirements for commercial production. Our company wants to develop top-performing, volume varieties to wholesale nurseries and berry producers while providing them with the research expertise to support their success.”

Phytocultures’ current production inventory for Haskap plants already exceeds 150,000 plants annually. Big selling features of Haskaps are the plants can easily withstand Spring frosts, be grown further north and produce the first fresh berry of the season in late June. Also, the berries taste good!

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In the latest Clyde River lecture, David Weale told us when communities cease to take part in their own traditions, they start living someone else’s story, and the only way to counter this trend is to revive or take up our own traditions and, in the process, create our own stories.

David said that when he was driving out to Clyde River for his lecture, he heard a radio interview with the father of one of the five young lost fisherman in Wood’s Harbour, Nova Scotia. The statement that resonated with him was the father saying that if he needed 50 boats to go out there to search for the boys from his community and neighbouring communities, there would be 50 boats that would go out tomorrow if he put out the plea. That is what a community does. They share the good times, the bad times and come together in force to deal with tragic times. They know each other stories, generations of stories, so when something happens to one, they all feel it.

David says we all represent a story, a story about ourselves, the lives we have lived and continue to live. We share that story with our family, friends, neighbours and all those we come in contact with in our lives. And within those stories are traditions, many of which are long gone, others existing in some form and ones that are new.

“A community does not exist just because they live in proximity to one another. They have to engage and do things with one another.”

Communities need their own stories, and traditions and stories go hand in hand. They demonstrate what we find important, what we value. It is dangerous when we lose control of them. Mass media presents us with many stories about what we should buy into, who we ought to be and what we need to consume. At the local level, we need to engage in our stories.

David made reference to the Clyde River community resolutions series and our latest one about “starting or re-starting a tradition.” In preparation for his lecture, he wrote down all the community traditions that he could think of from Island history and went through them with us one by one.

  • The Pound Party – A community event where people would take a pound of something to help a family in need.
  • The Basket Social – Ladies would prepare baskets and auction them off to the highest bidders and then the buyers would have the delight of enjoying the basket lunch with those ladies.
  • The Frolic – We may know it more as a “working bee” where people would come together to combine work and leisure. They would labour all day in order to earn the opportunity to have a social of food and music afterwards. It satisfied the need to be industrious and the need to get together and have a good time.
  • The Mayflower Expedition – When mayflowers would appear in early Spring in PEI, people would go out to the country on the train and pick baskets of mayflowers to take back home.
  • Ground Spruce Christmas Excursion – In St. Georges, PEI, the whole community would go to the woods and gather ground spruce which was later used to decorate the church for Christmas and offer an opportunity for a social.
  • The Summer Tea Party – It was often the biggest social event of the year where community members decorated booths or set up a horse ring (a carousel that was driven by a horse and offered a ride for kids). The tea was called a Sunday School Picnic in some communities.
  • Christmas Concert – Children from the school would put on a concert.
  • Dress-up Skating Carnival – People would dress up and get together for a skate.
  • The Wake – When people passed, the deceased would be waked within the community. David says nowadays, so many residents who have lived their entire lives in one community are more often taken elsewhere to be waked.
  • Parties – House dances, crokinole parties, card parties, concerts
  • The Chiverie – When the neighbours in the community would dress up and show up to chiverie newlyweds which involved banging pots and pans, shooting guns, placing spruce needles in their bed or animals in the house.
  • Ice Racing – Neighbours would get together to race their horses on the frozen river and others would gather to watch.
  • Bridal and community showers – An event to celebrate an upcoming or recent marriage where the community would offer gifts.
  • Decorating an Easter bonnet – Decorate a hat in celebration of Easter. The Clyde River Women’s Institute still celebrates this tradition.

In Clyde River, some of the traditions that we still take part in would include our annual Strawberry Social, Christmas Party, crokinole parties, Canada Day Celebrations, Art in the Park and the Sunday School picnic, and we capture stories on our Clyde River website.

In closing, David read from his first issue of RED Magazine that tells Island stories. He had interviewed Ethel MacPhail, and the story pointed to the traditions or Island codes of behaviour that are rules, not law, but yet were never to be broken.

David was told that Ethel was a great resource of history, so he called her up to ask if he could visit. Sitting at her kitchen table, David asked Ethel if she minded if he tape-recorded their interview. She said yes, but he could see that she was not at all comfortable with being recorded. They chatted for a while, but she just couldn’t get into a conversation. Even though they went through her old photographs which David thought would take her mind away, she still could not overcome her fear of the tape recorder. David succumbed and wrapped up the interview, thinking she would be glad to see the tail end of him. The next morning, he received a call from Ethel and she sounded terribly upset. David was nervous that he had contributed to her distress. Ethel said to David, “Do you realize that you are probably the first person in three generations to come into this house for a visit and leave without being offered a cup of tea.” She had broken the ancient tradition and she could not be consoled.

David’s lecture entertained us but also gives us a good deal to thing about. I told someone after that his talk was halfway between a lecture and a sermon. He personalized the meaning and importance of community. He challenged us to take the chance of being ourselves which is our opportunity as a community. Respect and engagement in tradition is the legacy that our ancestors took to heart, the same legacy that can be ours and the legacy that we can share with younger generations.

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Kirk Brown’s career spans the energy crisis of the 1970s when it seemed we might run out of oil and we were looking for alternative energy sources to now when we are seeking newer and cleaner energies. He worked with Exxon in the US and then moved on to the Ontario Research Institute and later Ontario Ministry of Energy. One day he saw an advertisement in the Globe and Mail where the newly formed Institute of Man and Resources in Prince Edward Island was looking for a Director of Research. He said the advertisement seemed to fit what he wanted perfectly, so he applied and out of 100 applicants, he got the job.

On April 1, 1977, Kirk and his wife J’Nan moved to Prince Edward Island. They first lived in a home that featured early generation solar panels in Lewis Point Park, but Kirk was keen to buy a farm. When he was a young teenager, he worked one summer on a farm in Ontario and he said it was his favourite job. So combining his two interests, the Browns purchased the MacNeill farm in Clyde River and we are glad they did.

The Institute of Man and Resources was directed by Andy Wells during Alex Campbell’s time as premier in Prince Edward Island. Campbell wanted to take a leadership role in Canada on responding to the energy crisis when the price of oil had quadrupled. Kirk said that Prince Edward Island had historically embraced wood burning energy, but to return to wood and other energies the Institute worked to develop a Canada-PEI agreement (The Agreement) to research improved wood burning systems and to look at solar and wind energies and demonstrate more efficient use of energy as a means of reducing Island household heating costs.

The Ark project in eastern Prince Edward Island is often connected to the Institute. It was a dream inspired by John Todd and the New Alchemy Institute in New England and was funded as a separate part of the Agreement to be operated by the New Alchemists. The Ark was planned to demonstrate a fully self-sustainable lifestyle. Kirk said that it turned out to be more expensive than anticipated because they were trying to integrate many new unproven technologies all at once. The Institute was asked to become the Ark project manager but eventually had to close down the operation due to lack of funding. However, there were aspects of technologies adopted there that later spawned future opportunities in PEI and elsewhere.

Shortly after starting work at the Institute Kirk was approached when plans were underway to build the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The QEH project manager wished to use something other than heavy fuel oil for heating. Kirk and the manager decided to investigate the use of municipal waste. Later Kirk went on to work at the PEI Energy Corporation, where they focused on energy strategies for public institutions. There the idea of using waste led to the Energy From Waste plant for heating the QEH. The District Heating System in Charlottetown was born out of the EFW plant. This underground system now pipes heat to many public buildings throughout Charlottetown.

The other legacy that the early work of the Institute and the PEI Energy Corporation established was wind energy. Prince Edward Island is now home of the Wind Energy Institute of Canada, and energy produced from wind turbines in PEI contributes to local energy needs and has become a valuable energy export for the Province. PEI has an excellent wind regime and was one of the early innovating regions.

Kirk’s concern these days is still on alternative energies. The Browns use solar panels to generate hot water, and wood heats their house. But more so, Kirk is unwavering in his opinion that we need to move toward energy strategies that will minimize climate change problems and the cost that it places on our environment and quality of life for future generations.

The audience had many questions for Kirk, and his breadth of knowledge was evident as he helped us to understand the economic and political winds that drive alternative energy policies and development and how important it is to keep viable energy strategies top of mind. As a community, we are so pleased to have such a valuable resource in our midst. Thanks Kirk.

If you want to watch the daily breakdown of PEI’s electrical usage, view this graph created by Peter Rukavina here. To find out more about Peter’s research, read here.

Want to know how much of our energy is currently being created by wind? Click here. To see the PEI government wind energy charts, click here.

We include here a video interview that Peter Rukavina had with Kirk and featured on a site discussing Climate Change,  “Think About it – Climate Change.”

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