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The successes and challenges of the NL berry industry
This dance group has been going strong for nearly a century
The charcuterie of chef Shaun Hussey of Chinched Restaurant
On Capelin WatchThis annual event has no set date, it happens fast and doesnât last long. Will you be ready when the capelin roll?Beginning in late June, especially during a run of mauzy (foggy, damp) weather, folks in the know start scanning the beaches for more than driftwood. Theyâre looking for a dark pool in the incoming tide, and a distinct flurry of movement in the waves as they sweep in over pebbly and sandy beaches. A silvery shimmer, a flick of tails and scales, followed by a burst of commotion on the landwash. Then the call is heard around the community, âThe capelin are rolling!âCapelin (Mallotus villosus) is a pelagic fish, meaning it lives in the deep ocean most of its life, from Greenland to Alaska, Japan to Atlantic Canada. They only come ashore to spawn. That is what all their fuss is about when the capelin roll - the females come ashore to lay their eggs, where the males fertilize them. These tiny smelt-like fish have silver and green backs, and silvery white bellies. During spawning season, the malesâ heads and backs appear darker and their fins larger than the femalesâ, and the males gain a row of longer scales on their sides, called âspawning ridges.â After laying their eggs, the females head back out to sea to spawn somewhere else again someday. The males hang around in the shallower waters to spawn more than once and they die when the spawning season is over. Essentially, they sacrifice themselves for the survival of their species.Capelin feed on plankton and small crustaceans. More importantly, they are the food source for much higher ups on the food chain, from cod to squid, seals and whales. In fact, when the capelin are rolling ashore, there are often whales spotted in those bays. Theyâve chased the schools on the hunt for a tasty meal. Seabirds also fill the sky and put off quite the high diving show when the capelin are in.Also flocking the beaches in search of a meal are the locals. Whenever the capelin roll - doesnât matter if itâs under a brilliant sun or a shimmering moon - the crowds come with their cast nets, dip nets and buckets. Itâs an all-ages event, and the delighted squeals and shouts could be from a toddler or a senior, in hip rubbers or sandals, all equally excited to grasp the slippery, flapping fish by the dozens. Some freshly caught capelin will be cooked up over a fire right there on the beach; others will be carefully salted and dried at home and later fried up with scrunchins, barbecued, or frozen for a mid-winter treat. Some like them cleaned with heads removed, like a trout or salmon, and others scarf them down whole. And while thereâs not a lot of call for it in Newfoundland and Labrador, there is a market for capelin roe made into caviar and sushi. (Traditionally, rather than eat them, local residents add capelin to their vegetable beds to fertilize the soil.In 2018, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) revealed that their 2017 capelin count showed the stock size had plummeted 70 per cent since the last count in 2015. Their research suggests itâs not related to the commercial capelin fishery, which harvested about 20,000 tonnes of capelin in 2017, but more likely environmental factors. A group of interested parties, including DFO, Parks Canada and the World Wildlife Federation, have launched the website www.ecapelin.ca to encourage citizen scientists to help them gather data on the small, but significant fish. Anyone who sees the capelin rolling can submit a photo to the website along with the time, date and location of the sighting. That information will be displayed on a map there, which other folks can use to find out where the capelin are. You can also use and follow the social media hashtag #capelinroll2019.Crispy Deep-Fried CapelinBy Academy Canada Culinary Class 20 male capelin, cleaned and heads removed1/4 cup cornmeal3/4 cup fine breadcrumbs1/4 tsp celery salt1/2 tsp black pepper1/2 tsp cumin, ground1/2 tsp onion powder1 cup flour2 eggs1/2 cup milkMix together cornmeal and breadcrumbs in one bowl. In a second bowl, combine flour and spices. In a third bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Lightly moisten the capelin with water, but only just enough that the flour can stick. Roll each fish in the flour and spices, shake off the excess and dip in egg wash, then roll in crumbs. Pat to be sure itâs all coated. Deep fry in oil heated to 325Â°F until golden brown. Serve immediately. Yield: 4 servingsCapelin Catching KitKeep in your trunk at least one item from each categoryTo Wear:Rubber boots / Hip waders â¢ Sandals (but water will be cold!) â¢ Water shoes â¢ Spare dry socks and shoesTo Catch:Dip net â¢ Cast net â¢ Rod and reelTo Carry:Fish tub / plastic tub with lidSalt beef bucketTo Linger:Camp chairs â¢ Kindling â¢ Matches/ lighter â¢ Beach blanketsCapelin WeatherOften in late May to late June, there is a stretch of foggy, rainy, muggy weather in Newfoundland and Labrador. Like Sheilaâs Brush that always brings snow after St. Patrickâs Day, this weather lore has proven uncannily accurate every year. Where NL weather can be otherwise unpredictable, you can pretty well count on the mauzy spring weather being broken as soon as the capelin start rolling on the beaches.
A full side of pork, feet hanging over the edge, fills the prep table in the kitchen of Chinched restaurant on a quiet Tuesday afternoon. Executive chef and co-owner Shaun Hussey hones his butcherâs knife and leans in to deftly remove the loin. He and his crew will break down the entire side, making use of every bit. Much of the animal is destined, eventually, for the deli cabinet, where a variety of artistically crafted sausages, duck confit, pastrami, mortadella and bologna await the charcuterie platter. Shaun refers to his bologna as âfancy Newfoundland bologna.â And mortadella, he says, is just fancy Italian bologna. In Italy, making mortadella has always been serious business. Historically, the proper method for making it was overseen by a guild of charcutiers, and the penalty for making mortadella without the consent of the guild was to be stretched on the rack - tortured, in other words. Keep in mind this was the 1700s, and our sense of appropriate punishment has changed significantly. The process of making mortadella, however, hasnât. Making a proper mortadella is still a difficult task that requires skill and practice. It also happens to be the same method used in making bologna. âSeasoned properly and made with the right ingredients,â Shaun says, ââ¦itâs a piece of artwork.âMaking bologna correctly - using quality ingredients, making it by hand and putting care into creating a quality product - is similar to the way mortadella was made a few hundred years ago. And thatâs the way Shaun makes all his charcuterie, including bologna. Before the Bates Hill location, with its deli counter that was the reason for the move, the restaurant was on Queen Street, both in downtown St. Johnâs. Before Chinched, Shaun and Michelle LeBlanc, his wife and Chinched co-owner, were on Fogo Island. Before that, he spent eight years working at restaurants on the mainland. This is where Shaunâs journey into charcuterie begins, sometime between 2005 and 2007 - heâs not sure of the exact year. He and the chef he was working with, who he credits as being a mentor, got curious about cured meats, and started making and hanging salamis. They also started warning coworkers not to eat it. âNothing we ever made we were confident enough to eat because we didnât really know. It was more of a trial and error. It was the very beginning of experiments for us,â Shaun says.Why make food with no intention of serving or eating it? Because itâs all part of the process. This experimental phase allowed Shaun to observe how meat dries and what happens through the various stages. And because they were working with uncooked, dried meat, with its potential for bacterial contamination, their hesitancy in consuming it was understandable. When they moved to working with cooked meats, bacteria was no longer a concern. The first edible charcuterie he made was a country style pÃ¢tÃ©, âand thatâs something that Iâve kept in my repertoire ever since,â he says. Old ways of doing things, of making food, has long interested Shaun, inspiring his forays into traditional methods of preserving food and the way itâs done in various cultures. From the centuries-old traditions of Italian charcutiers to the methods of salting and cellaring used by Newfoundlanders, there is a common sinew of method, knowledge and technique connecting the cultures and ages across the Atlantic. Through the centuries, those Italian meats made their way to Newfoundland plates, transforming along the way from mortadella to bologna. On Fogo Island, the old-timers told Shaun that when they were young bologna was considered a good meal. The bologna of the old-timersâ youth: thatâs what Shaun wanted to recreate in his effort to make bologna beautiful again.But thereâs more to it than a love of food and an interest in traditional methods. He is a chef, yes, but heâs also an entrepreneur and business owner looking to get more people in the door. Given the popularity of all things bologna here (looking at you, Maple Leaf bologna stick mascot), he figured bologna would be a good, buzzworthy item at the deli counter. And with an active Instagram presence, of course there is a hashtag: #MakeBolognaBeautifulAgain. Pork is Shaunâs meat of choice. Itâs what most of the deli meats are made from, itâs in the illustrated butcher cuts framed on the wall, and it features heavily on the menu, including the ever-popular pigs ears appetizer. So it makes sense that Shaun has sought out Leamington Farms, in Point Leamington, NL, to supply him with fresh pork. Admittedly, not all the pork comes from Leamington Farms - Chinched simply doesnât have the space to process all the pork they need, so they order in shoulders from off-island suppliers in addition to the full sides of pork like the one on that prep table. At first, the pigs from Leamington Farm were lean, because that was the current market trend. Shaun wanted big pigs, porkers with a good bit of fat on them, ones that had been given time to grow, age and develop. Fat, he says, stores flavour, which is affected by diet. It stands to reason, then, that a fat pig is a flavourful pig. So Shaun requested porkier porkers. The folks at Leamington Farms provided, and Shaun is now able to offer a farm-to-fork experience to diners while having the piece of mind of knowing exactly where his main ingredient is coming from and how itâs fed, grown and processed. Before moving the restaurant and creating the deli space, Shaun tested the local demand for his crafted charcuterie by setting up a table at the St. Johnâs Farmers Market. He prepared several coolers worth of product, including a variety of sausages. On his first day he was completely sold out within 25 minutes. It continued like this for several weeks, eventually slowing as people stocked up their freezers. There was, evidently, a demand for quality prepared meats. Fast forward a few years, and now people are visiting the Bates Hill deli for their fix of locally prepared meats - including bologna, which, despite its poor reputation, has a pedigreed history and, when made with care and quality ingredients, is worthy of respect. âThis is an advanced piece of charcuterie thatâs being made here,â says Shaun, âand as fancy as mortadella.â-by Tobias Romaniuk
For almost a century, the St. Patâs Dancers have pranced their way across the stages of Newfoundland and Labrador, delighting audiences, raising funds for charity and recruiting new members. Yvonne Steiner is a coordinator with the non-profit group and has been involved for more than 30 years, taking over when the Christian Brothers moved out of St. Patrickâs Hall School on Merrymeeting Road in St. Johnâs. Today, they practice out of St. Bonaventureâs College.To raise funds, they hold events and performances. In fact, last year they were hired by OâReillyâs Pub on George Street in St. Johnâs to perform there every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening.Not only are the dancers, teachers and organizers all volunteers, there is no cost to parents whose kids want to be St. Patâs Dancers. âAll the money that is given [raised] goes into a bank account for the children, for their travel, for their shoes and for their uniforms if needed. So it wonât be any cost to the parents,â Yvonne confirms. She enrolled her own daughters decades ago - thatâs how she got involved - and one of her daughters still volunteers alongside her.Tracing the History of the St. Patâs DancersThe St. Patâs Dancers were founded in the 1930s by the Irish Christian Brothers. It started as a group of five boys who were taught Irish step dancing and performed around the city. From the 1940s to the 1980s, they got an inspirational boost from Brother Murphy, whoâd returned from New York City, where he was influenced by local dancing styles and studied with Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. He introduced these new dances to the St. Patâs Dancers, which was still an all-boys group. That changed in the 1980s, when the floor was opened for girls. Females make up the majority of St. Patâs Dancers today.Currently, there are 14 dances that members learn and perform. Dancers are divided into two groups: junior and senior. On Friday evenings, as many as 50 people show up for the junior class, led by more experienced dancers. âThatâs how we carry on the tradition,â Yvonne explains. âAnd weâve got kids at Memorial University, several of them actually, who joined when they were five and six years old, like my daughter, and they still stay with it. And they come back on a regular basis and teach the younger ones on the tradition. Children teaching children.âGetting the dancers to teach the younger members is a good way to keep them connected to the group and stay with it, rather than just age out. Theyâre also helping produce well-rounded students, many of whom go on to earn the Duke of Edinburghâs Award and volunteer with other groups. Plus, Yvonne says, âThe kids have a lot of fun at it!âIn the past, St. Patâs Dancers would visit and perform at long-term care homes in the city, such as St. Patrickâs Mercy Home (where they also practise one night a week) and theyâve expanded into venues across the Avalon Peninsula. Theyâve even performed for royalty, including the Belgian king and queen in the 1970s when they visited NL. In 2014, the St. Patâs Dancers were in Ireland and performed at the Canada Day celebrations at the embassy in Dublin. âWeâre all over the place; put it that way,â Yvonne says.Irish HomecomingWhenever they can, Yvonne says the group travels and last August, a St. Patâs Dancers troupe travelled to Ireland again. That tripâs origin started with Causeway Delight, a musical group from Ireland who was visiting the province and met the dancers. The musicians said on their next trip to Ireland, they should visit Killarney, âso thatâs what we did,â Yvonne says. The dancers took the opportunity to learn more dances at the Maureen Haggerty School of Dance in Killarney. They also performed at a few venues and met up with Causeway Delight.It was a family-friendly trip, in that some parents came along, too. The dancers had free time to explorethe area, and some rented bicycles to ride around town.âIt wasnât all dance, dance, dance, dance,â Yvonne says.During this visit, Yvonne says she was told by people that the St. Patâs Dancers were doing Irish dancing thatâs forgotten there. âI think thatâs why we go over so well,â though she isnât sure that Irish dancing has actu-ally fallen by the wayside in Ireland. But the St. Patâs Dancers are certainly doing their part to preserve and build on this type of traditional Irish dance.The 2018 trip to Killarney went over so well, the St. Patâs Dancers hope to be in Galway in 2020. All the while, theyâre keeping the group going strong, performing in the community and reaching out to new members. âI love it,â Yvonne says. âI never get sick of it and Iâm at it over 30 years.â- by Elizabeth Whitten
For Philip Thornley, seeing a child get into the blueberry bushes and emerge with a face stained purple is a joyful thing. Understandable, since heâs the owner of Campbellton Berry Farm in Campbellton, NL. Located in the Bay of Exploits, itâs the perfect spot for a berry farm.âItâs a nice little peninsula because the climate, to some extent, is moderated by the bay. So frosts arenât as bad as they could be inland,â Philip explains. A farmer for several decades, Philip has to keep an eye on what may have a negative impact on his fields.While Philipâs farm is best known for its strawberry u-pick, heâs also been harvesting blueberries for the last 25 years. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researchers, out of all the fruit Canada exports, blueberries are the most valuable and in 2016, those exports were valued at more than $223 million.Our country is the second largest producer of blueberries, and in 2017, Newfoundland and Labrador produced approximately 115 tons of them. The health benefits of this little berry are well-documented: theyâre rich in antioxidants and eating this fruit regularly has been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Theyâre also high in nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, potassium, manganese and copper.And these berries can be found growing wild all over NL, so itâs little wonder these small, but powerful berries are so popular. The blueberries in this province are typically lowbush blueberries, which are noticeably more nutritious than the highbush variety, do better in cooler climates, tend to be smaller and have a better flavour. Philipâs farm has both varieties.NLâs super fruitWhile Newfoundlanders and Labradorians donât always love our climate (lookinâ at you, late April ice shower), our generally cooler climate has benefits when it comes to blueberries. Itâs produced a hardier berry that can withstand our temperatures, as well as a better flavour, according to Philip. A lot of antioxidants are in the berryâs skin, he says, and the smaller blueberries have a higher skin-to-flesh ratio, making them packed with these beneficial antioxidants.As well, where thereâs lower soil fertility, the blueberry plant has to get resourceful when it comes to finding its nutrients. It can partner with mycorrhiza (a symbiotic relationship between fungus and the plantâs root system) to meet its needs, such as water, phosphorous and potassium. âSo having a plant that has to struggle a bit, like Newfoundlanders or the Newfoundland ponyâ¦ can end up being a better breed,â he says.Itâs like a type of survival of the fittest. Our local blueberry bushes are the descendants of plants that have had to struggle to survive, so theyâve adapted to make themselves comfortable in this environment. âPlants are smart; theyâll adapt if we have the patience to give them the time,â Philip muses.While small berries arenât always stocked in supermarkets because consumers are more visually drawn to plumper berries, Philip says bigger blueberries can mean higher water content and fewer nutrients. He would also like to see a shift in the way people buy their berries. âInstead of thinking about size and appearance, people who are stocking supermarket shelves should be thinking about nutrition and the consumer should be thinking... âWhen I spend my dollar, am I getting good value for vitamin C, for example, or nutrient value and taste?ââThe creeping threat of climate changeThere are plenty of threats to crops, and after 40 years on the farm, Philipâs seen climate change creeping up faster than heâd anticipated. He knows itâs going to be a major problem. In fact, a recent report from Environment and Climate Change Canada stated that Canada is experiencing climate change at twice the speed of the global average. âAnd it might have some unexpected consequences for Newfoundland because weâre on Iceberg Alley,â Philip says. âAnd if the Greenland ice sheet is really shedding ice water, itâs gonna shed it into Newfoundland, right on our northeast coast. Thatâs gonna result in colder temperatures, especially in the spring.âThere are also severe economic impacts that come with climate change, which will be felt especially by those who work the land. If a crop is destroyed, that can put a farmerâs finances in jeopardy, âwhich is what happened last year,â Philip says. âAnd itâs not just gonna be predictable change, itâs gonna be extremes. Plants are quite happy with averages, but theyâre not happy with extremes - thatâs what kills them.â So you can have a nice spring, but if the temperature suddenly soars or plummets, it can kill the plant.Philip says there are things a farmer can prepare for, but even then he can still get hit with something unexpected. For instance, farmers monitor and manage the content of the soil to make sure thereâs the right levels of certain elements, such as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. But if something fails thatâs out of his control (like temperature, sunlight or rainfall), he can still get a bad yield, Philip explains. âSo you can do everything right, or you think youâve done it right, and youâre nailed by something thatâs unpredictable. So yes, [climate change is] going to have economic consequences. It means weâve got to take more measures to try and protect crops or weâve got to grow crops that are way less vulnerable, and thatâs all expensive.âBlueberries have vulnerabilities, Philip says. For instance, the plant might survive a severe frost, but the blossoms wonât. Blueberry bushes are self-pollinating, but cross-pollination is good for the plant, so they still need bees and a breeze. But what if it gets too cold and wet for pollinators to get around? Or maybe the fruit never develops because it got too hot and dry? This isnât great for farmers who are selling the fruit the plant bears.Itâs not just weather that threatens blueberries, but also the potential disease that could hit them, such as mummy berry, a disease caused by a fungus that can wipe out crops and can linger in the area for years. The fact that Newfoundland is an island can offer some degree of separation and protection from certain problems, including fruit fly. However, they can still infect Newfoundland blueberries if the insects are blown over the Gulf of St. Lawrence or brought in accidentally.Last year there was a recall for blueberry bushes being sold in NL that potentially contained blueberry maggot, a species of tephritid fruit fly. Itâs an insect that eats the plants and can already be found in the eastern United States, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, but not Newfoundland and Labrador - at least, not yet.- by Elizabeth Whitten
Photos of a humpback whale in Holyroodâs north arm have been all over social media for the past few weeks, and people have been lining up on the side of the road to catch a glimpse of the early-season visitor. While whales in Holyrood arenât especially uncommon - thereâs usually a few each year - having one stick around for this long is unusual. Naturally, we got curious about the whaleâs activity, so we reached out to the federal Department of Fisheries to speak with whale expert Dr. Jack Lawson, a research scientist in the marine mammal section. The assumption that itâs the same whale coming back time and again, rather than multiple whales, comes from seeing only one at a time. But with a bit of observation, it need not be purely a guess. Jack says there are several ways to identify a whale, including noting any scars or nicks in the dorsal fin area, identifying unique markings on the mouth area, or by noting the pattern on the fluke. Using the fluke is the preferred whale identification method, he says - each one is unique. The fluke identification method has proven difficult in Holyrood, though, since the whale very rarely shows its fluke. The water in the lower part of North Arm gets pretty shallow - parts are exposed at low tide - so maybe thatâs why the whale doesnât show its fluke. Or maybe itâs shy, but thatâs probably not it. Being able to identify a whale comes in handy if you want to know where the whale goes next, or if you want to know if he returns to the area each year. By noting unique characteristics, itâs possible to keep an eye out for various whales. âThis animal, there are quite a few pictures of the mouth because itâs feeding and has its head out of the water,â says Jack. âThere are a couple of nice markings on the mouth that would work as well if you were able to see the mouth in the future.âThe small bay where the whale spends much of its time feeding is relatively shallow, ranging from 6 feet where a creek feeds into the end of the bay deepening to about 16 feet then 32 feet, according to online nautical charts. The average adult humpback ranges in size from about 42 to 52 feet long, so there isnât really room for the whale to do a deep dive in the bay, which could explain the lack of tail displays. But there is enough room for the whale to lunge feed, which is when a whaleâs mouth comes out of the water as it gulps up fish. One evening, the whale was observed doing this lunge feeding motion in the shallower water, then swimming out to deeper water before returning for another gulp of food. Was he using the bay to corral the fish?âOften these whales are smart enough to do that,â says Jack, telling of times when humpbacks have been observed using shore rocks or finger piers to corral the fish, making it easier to gulp up large mouthfuls. The waters off Newfoundland and Labrador are like a cold water buffet for whales, with plenty of food. And that food is the main reason they are here. âFor these guys,â says Jack, âthis is the time of year when they really bulk up on fat. So as long as thereâs food around, theyâll generally stay in an area. I havenât seen whales move away from an area where I knew there was a lot of capelin or a lot of herring."
Have you seen the American Man? Something else to watch for on the landscape as you tour Newfoundland and LabradorPerched high atop Spectacle Head in Cupids, NL is a tall, solitary figure. Locals, who have kept an eye on him for ages, call him the American Man. He is motionless, a guardian of sorts, looking out towards the waters of Conception Bay. He towers there, day and night, year-round. He is silent, with a stony gaze - an apt description, really, for a figure made entirely of rocks. The Spectacle Head American Man is a circular tower of stone, built at some point in the distant past. He has stood there for about 100 years, making him a well-known landmark on the Baccalieu Trail. Yet while his lofty perch might be lonely, he does not stand alone on the Newfoundland landscape. All over Newfoundland and Labrador, often on hilltops close to the sea, you can find similar cairns of locally gathered rock. In Placentia Bay these stone piles were called âMan of Rocksâ and, spread out over a few miles, they could be lined up as guides to navigation for local fishermen. At Burnt Islands, on the southwest coast of Newfoundland just west of Rose Blanche, two such cairns were used together in the 1800s to aid in marine navigation.Often, these rocky piles are called American Men, sometimes lending their name to the ridges they surmount. There is a hill just north of Ferryland called American Man on some maps, and another hill with the same name in the Humber Valley. On the Great Northern Peninsula, there is both an American Man Lookout near Raleigh and an inland American Man hill northwest of Great Harbour Deep. In Notre Dame Bay and St. Maryâs Bay these stone markers were sometimes called âThe Naked Man.â Other communities in Newfoundland referred to them as âNascopiesâ - perhaps in reference to the indigenous peoples of Labrador and their own tradition of making stone markers - or they are called âCarrins,â a variant of the word cairn.Oral tradition claims that many of these stone piles were erected by surveyors. Several places in Newfoundland are home to cairns attributed to the famous British explorer, navigator, cartographer Captain James Cook. While Cook did, in fact, survey sections of the coast in the early 1700s, itâs likely that many of these rock columns were erected a century or more later. Captain Orlebarâs Cairn, northeast of Bay Bulls, is named after Captain John Orlebar, commander of the steamship Lady Le Marchant. Orlebar was in charge of the Newfoundland Survey in 1877. Sailing directions for Newfoundland published by the Hydrographic Center for the US Defense Mapping Agency in 1970 include the spot as a navigation point, noting: âAmerican Man (Captain Orlebarâs Cairn), a twin summit, the southern peak of which is 816 feet high, rises about Â¾ mile northward of Heretic Hill.âThe practice of building stone landmarks was also common among American fishermen on the Labrador, and it is possible that some of the Conception Bay American Men were inspired by Labrador examples. In 2009, Gerald Crane, then a member of the Spaniardâs Bay Heritage Society, explained the origin of three American Men near Spider Pond in this way, in an article he wrote for a local newspaper:âThe Americans were good friends of Newfoundland back in the early 1900s, particularly during the daysof Responsible Government. They fished during those days along the coast of Labrador. While fishing they would erect piles of rocks in different areas along the coastline to mark the good fishing grounds. When our ancestors began fishing the Labrador coast, they noticed the large piles of rocks and later found out they were erected by the Americans, and why they erected them. When the fishermen came home in the late fall after fishing all summer, they decided to build the three piles of rocks to guide them up and down over Long Pond and Spider Pond during stormy conditions. Taking into consideration the fact the piles of rocks they saw on the Labrador Coast were built by the Americans, they decided that a good name for them would be The American Man. That name remains today, more especially with the older generation who travelled back and forth over the ponds in earlier years.â (The Compass, March 17, 2009)Crane wrote that brothers Edward and David Brown were paid the grand sum of $50 to build those three stone navigation aids. One stood on the south side of Long Pond, Tilton, in an area where the slide path went up over the pond; another stood at the southeast corner of Spider Pond. Only the third, constructed at the northwest bight of Spider Pond, remains.There are other theories about the origin of the term American Man. Residents of Cupids say that their American (or âMericanâ) Man is a corruption of the phrase âMarking Manâ - tying it to that tradition of using it as an aid to sailors. Others say it got its name from American fishermen who once cast their lines in local waters. One colourful local legend claims it was built as a memorial for a gentleman from the South who tumbled from the top of the hill to his untimely death, a story more tall tale than fact.There is something about these piles of rocks perched high on the headlands that invites tales of mystery. One intriguing bit of Conception Bay lore was published by folklorist John Widdowson in his 1973 thesis, Aspects of Traditional Verbal Control: Threats and threatening figures in Newfoundland folklore. A resident of Bay Roberts reported a strange light haunting the rock tower that once stood at the top of Big Island (now known as Fergus Island) close to the entrance to the bay.âWhen father was a boy his mother used to warn him of Jack Oâ Lantern. Jack Oâ Lantern was supposed to live on top of the American Man (the name given to the cairn on top of Big Island in Bay Roberts). The island was not visible from the house as the view was blocked by Big Headâ¦ Jack Oâ Lantern was, of course, marsh gas and was really visible. I have seen him. Father was scared and believed in the tale attached to what he saw. However, he did not always obey when threatened. Grandmother would say, âThereâs a light on Big Head; itâs after you.â Jack Oâ Lantern just appeared on Big Head. He then progressed down the harbour, being very noticeable over the bogs at Running Brook. He then went to the bogs in Frenchâs Cove and from there crossed to his home on top of the American Man on Big Island.âOthers have suggested ancient origins for these stone piles: the late Canadian writer Farley Mowat argued that some were erected by wandering Norsemen a millennium ago, an argument with little to no archaeological evidence to support it. Some have suggested the Spectacle Head American Man was in place before pioneering settler John Guy landed in Cuperâs Cove in 1610, but the marker was most likely constructed in the very early years of the 20th century. That cairn, which has been rebuilt several times since the 1930s, is much taller today, and a second, smaller cairn has been constructed nearby. Around 2012, the seven-foot-high structure was damaged by vandals and rebuilt (in a wider, taller and slightly more symmetrical fashion) by local volunteers and heritage enthusiasts.While some older fishermen or backcountry snowmobilers might still use the odd American Man to help guide their way home, few people today use these old stone markers for their original purpose. However, the creation of new rock monuments continues; a comparatively young American Man in Ochre Pit Cove bears a sign reading âMAP monument by Mike North 2012.â If you are in the mood for a bit of exploration and exercise, hike to the top of Spectacle Head in Cupids. But if you want the chance to pose for a photo by one of the next generation of American Men, follow the old Conception Bay Highway a little bit farther along to Harbour Grace. There, at the end of Stoneâs Road on the Southside of Harbour Grace you will find a steep path winding upwards. Ascend that trail, and at the top of the ridge you will find the Stone Cairn commanding the view out over the town below. This cairn was erected a few years ago by the appropriately named Stone family, and hopefully it will be generating stories and its own local folklore for generations to come. -Story and photos by Dale JarvisDale Jarvis is a folklorist, storyteller, and author. If you know of an American Man he has missed in his travels, send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Co-housing: aging in place, aging together. This trend that originated in Denmark is gaining popularity around the world. More and more seniors are in platonic co-habitating arrangements, living together to save on costs and stave off loneliness. To me, it makes a lot of sense, but itâs not to be entered into lightly - rather like marriage. It takes commitment and a lot of work each and every day.Communication and compromise are the glue that keeps a relationship intact and going along in a healthy, constructive and productive way. Thatâs why co-housing makes sense, especially for lifelong friends who believe theyâd do better with each other than on their own. Together, they have a better chance of not becoming nursing home statistics. Government, take heed. Real estate developers and builders, listen up. We need to rethink where and how our seniors live. When we lose the supports of the traditional family dynamic, through death or family members moving far away, we begin to feel the stress that those changes impose upon our daily lives. Our physical and emotional health often takes a hit, and we experience one or more health situations that may not exist were we not on our own. A viable solution is to share the new reality with others, whether a close friend or someone interviewed through the process of finding a housemate or two or even three.Co-housing also means sharing the bills and the responsibilities of the house, going beyond practical financial arrangements. Itâs cheaper to live with somebody else, while at the same time contributing to each otherâs physical and emotional wellness. Sharing and caring together enhances quality of life and puts off an often inevitable transition into a nursing home or assisted living care.Provinces across the country need co-housing, as people currently aging in place are often alone in sprawling homes that are becoming more difficult to maintain. They would be far better served sharing with a longtime friend in a similar situation. The financial health of the provinceâs systems of care would also improve by being less burdened with cases of single seniors struggling to manage.Co-housing combines the best features of home ownership with the added layers of security, companionship and community spaces in buildings that are on the âcampus,â within walking distance. Imagine movie nights and potluck suppers in the community lounge, then returning to your private home with your housemate. You own it. Itâs yours. Having places to go and people to see is far better than any anti-anxiety medication or sleeping pill. The possibilities for a long term âpeople prescriptionâ are endless.I believe that real estate developers would do well to embrace the idea of co-operative housing units, which include all the features critical to safety. Invaluable would be consultations with persons with challenges to daily living who know, based on life experience, what would be needed in a home for seniors who want to age in place. Ask me about kitchens.The cost of purchasing a property in a senior co-housing community is comparable to buying a house in a traditional community; and buying a home in a newer development, and downsizing, can reduce maintenance and overhead costs such as utility bills. Furthermore, some seniorco-housing communities encourage neighbours to share resources such as lawn maintenance equipment. What a great way to meet-and-greet.Lots of communities, especially those designated as âuniversity towns,â are well suited to multi-generational co-housing. Friendships across generations are critical to emotional health and wellness - ask any senior with grandchildren. Co-housing with age-related peers and multi-generational co-housing both contribute to improved physical health and reduce the number of seniors living in poverty. In my view, co-housing is necessary for survival, particularly for those at-risk populations who would benefit from a sustained people connection. To learn more, visit Canada Co-housing Network (www.cohousing.ca).For myself, if I were fortunate enough to match with a compatible housemate, Iâd certainly be amenable to opening the doors of Chez Rockwell to a roomie. Must love dogs! -by Carla MacInnis Rockwell Carla MacInnis Rockwell is a freelance writer and disability rights advocate living outside Fredericton, NB with her aging Australian silky terrier and a rambunctious Maltese. email@example.com
James Haley makes furniture the old-fashioned way - one piece at a time, using mostly hand tools and held together with traditional joinery techniques instead of screws or dowels. His aesthetic leans toward unadorned and modern, but he doesnât concern himself with adhering to a specific style. He instead lets the principles of good design - attention to proportion, scale, function - guide the look of a piece. âI just want it to be simple, but really well made,â he says. Heâs talking about designing a piece free from excessive ornamentation that embraces the Shaker ethos of simplicity, paired with the workmanship exhibited by 19th-century furniture makers. Working primarily with hand tools is a deliberate choice for James, in part because his small shop has no room for large power tools, but mostly because he enjoys the process of creating with hand tools and the challenge of mastering those skills. Simple doesnât mean easy, though. Take, for instance, his walnut stools. Each stool has 20 pieces of wood, with mortise and tenon joints holding it all together. âThe way I build things, itâs [for] generations - itâs going to last forever,â says James. Each piece, although built for the ages, is designed to solve a problem experienced now. James can design and build a piece to suit the unique needs of the person commissioning it. James tells the story of a client who needed a chair to fit under an unconventionally proportioned desk. He met with the person, measured the space, then designed and built a piece that fit the dimensions and style required. âEvery piece of furniture Iâm doing is 100 per cent custom,â he says. After that initial consultation to determine what a person wants and needs from their new piece of furniture, James sketches his ideas before drawing the final design on graph paper to illustrate key points of the design ideas he has in his head. For James, the creation process is fluid. He views the initial drawing as a guideline and will make adjustments along the way to create the piece he initially envisioned in his mindâs eye.