Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Lobster ice cream

In recent years it's become quite a popular pastime for people to make their own ice cream at home. If you are so inclined, you may wish to consider making Lobster Ice Cream. Yes, it is technically possible to take lobster meat (fresh cooked is good but canned is fine too), douse it in butter then fold it into ice cream while you churn it.

We've got an abundance of lobster here around the Bay of Fundy, yet I don't know of any Fundy restaurants who serve this commercially (yet). In the meantime, Ben & Bill's Chocolate Emporium in nearby Bar Harbor, Maine sells a good volume of it! You can order it off their website.

Since its debut, Ben & Bill's Lobster Ice Cream has been featured in numerous newspaper and magazine articles, and has been featured on the Food Network's Roker on the Road, Road Tested, and on The Today Show.

(photo credit: Ben & Bill's)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Right whale article in National Geographic

The endangered North Atlantic Right whales that feed in the Bay of Fundy every summer and fall as part of their annual migration are of great interest not only to our visitors, whale researchers and conservationists but also to nature writers.

Over the past two years, staff at the New England Aquarium have spent a great deal of time with a writer & photographer who were dedicated to learning about the plight of Right whales. This research culminated in a Right whale feature in the October 2008 issue of National Geographic. It's a stunningly beautiful and compellingly written article that will teach many more people about these magnificent creatures and their struggle for survival. (Neanderthal Man is on the issue's cover if you look for it on a magazine stand!).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bay of Fundy in your mouth...brush thoroughly!

Here's a quirky fact for the strange but true section of my blog: if you are using toothpaste in North America there is a fair possibility that you are putting a small part of the Bay of Fundy in your mouth every day....

A section of our Bay that was once a tropical sea (during the Carboniferous period of geological time) is now a massive sedimentary deposit of gypsum. This is quite visible here, even from the roadside, as raw gypsum cliffs. I took this photo just off the 102 highway at St Croix near Windsor, Nova Scotia.

Our Fundy gypsum is shipped to the United States where, in addition to being made into wall board for construction (think: Gyprock), it is purified and (small amounts) are used in the making of toothpaste. So, the next time you brush your teeth give us your biggest Bay of Fundy smile! :o)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bay of Fundy widow's walk

In addition to Queen Anne and Victorian-inspired architectural features, Bay of Fundy sea captain's houses are also known for their "widow's walks". Widow's walks are railed rooftop platforms originally designed to enable those remaining at home to watch vessels at sea. Since so many ships and crew were lost during the Age of Sail, this design feature ended up being named after the widows left behind.

All folklore aside, there's also a practical reason for these platforms: they are often built around or near the home's chimney which allows for easy access in the event of a chimney fire. Historically - before fire departments - residents poured sand down a chimney to smother flue fires. Lots of room for buckets of sand atop this Fundy house I recently photographed!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tree pumpkins

You don't have to go very far around the Bay of Fundy to notice it's harvest time again. Farm markets burgeon with all types of produce, farmers' fields are full of fruit, and "you pick" stands for veggies and fruit are plentiful.

This week I was amused to see these photos from my friend Trish who works at the Historic Gardens in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia: pumpkins growing in trees! Apparently staff had been dumping organic matter in a low area just off the garden's lookoff and there were, apparently, pumpkin seeds in the mix. The pumpkin vines wandered up a nearby tree and, voila, a couple pumpkins grew - making a funky pumpkin tree.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Can this be mud?

Although visitors to the Bay of Fundy are quite intent upon seeing the tide in at its full vertical height of 40ish feet, I am constantly intrigued by our shoreline at low tide - when our 100 billion tonnes of seawater is out bulging in the Atlantic ocean somewhere. It's at low tide that Fundy turns awesome if only you have the time and inclination to discover it.

This morning I took an early morning walk along the centuries old Acadian dykes at low tide from Port Williams to Wolfville, Nova Scotia. On one side of me, salt marsh and mud; on the other side, lush farmland. Not ideal weather for photography - the light was diffused by random clouds and early morning shadows - but Fundy surprised me again and the pictures took themselves. My photos of mud are usually ooey, gooey chocolatey but not this morning - today they were soft planks of pewter.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Lupines are back!

When we get a particularly long growing season like this year, lupines will sometimes made a second bloom in September or October. We were out hiking on Saturday when we noticed purple and white lupines boldly blooming alongside their unlikely autumn companions: choke cherries, goldenrod, and blackberries (see photo).

Most folks around the Bay of Fundy know lupines as one of our first wildflowers, usually making an appearance in mid-June - always in time to be the decorating flower of choice for our high school proms!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Drinking Fundy Mist

Tea drinkers who frequent specialty tea & coffee shops are likely aware of a fine little beverage: London Fog (also known as Vanilla Tea Misto). It consists of steamed milk, vanilla syrup and Earl Grey Tea. I was prowling the Bay of Fundy this week and ended up in a coffee shop (The Designer Cafe on Main Street in Kentville, Nova Scotia) where I discovered a fun Fundy-themed tea variation: Fundy Mist. This drink consists of steamed milk, hazelnut syrup and Chai tea (tea bag not latte gloop). It's the perfect drink for a fresh foggy/misty Fundy day!

By the way, their apple cinnamon buns or zucchini-chocolate chip muffins and regular panini n' fresh soup or salad options were also excellent!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hang-gliding Fundy updrafts

I've previously mentioned how the Bay of Fundy's "updrafts" (caused when wind off the water hits the foot of our abrupt cliffs then bolts upward) sometimes cause cascading fog but I've not mentioned that the same winds blow well for hang-gliding and paragliding 'round these parts.

Last weekend, I chanced to catch these folks get 'lift off' from the cliff edge in Port Greville, Nova Scotia. If you know your Fundy geography you may recognize Cape Split there across the Minas Channel - just a few miles across by air but 3 hrs drive around!!

I believe these flyers were taking lessons with Pegasus Paragliding, Atlantic Canada's only paragliding school based nearby...gives a whole new meaning to 'go jump off a cliff'!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Do Fundy shipbuilders build houses?

Although the Age of Sail has long since passed there is one extraordinary legacy that remains in villages, towns and cities throughout the Bay of Fundy: sea captain's houses.

The same folks who designed and built ships to sail around the world in the 1800s also tried their hand, very successfully, at domestic design. During the Age of Sail it was de rigueur that any ship's captain worth his salt had an appropriately grand, worldwide-travel-inspired home with a commanding view of his harbour.

I've previously posted about my own sea captain's house with its three-story turret and bay windows, and here's another fine example of Fundy ship's captain architecture: the St Martins Country Inn in St Martins, New Brunswick.

This home was built by Captain Vaughan in 1857, modeled after a home his wife had seen in the French Riveria! Design-wise this house has some typical sea captain's house features: two story 3-bay windows, mixed gables (those builders sure liked a challenge!), harbour-view verandah, and detailed "gingerbread" trim.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Bay of Fundy's famous ghost ship

Any mention of the Age of Sail and Spencer's Island leads naturally to the true story of Fundy's famous ghost ship: the Mary Celeste. The Mary Celeste was 100 ft brigantine built in Spencer's Island in 1861 as the Amazon. The ship was thought to be cursed due to numerous misadventures, including a maiden voyage collision in London, a 1868 grounding in Cape Breton (after which she was repaired and renamed the Mary Celeste), and her most extraordinary adventure as follows:

In November, 1872, the vessel sailed from New York, bound for Italy, with its captain, captain's wife, their two-year old daughter (this was commonly done then!) and a crew of seven along with a full cargo of alcohol. A few weeks later the Mary Celeste was discovered moving at full sail toward the Strait of Gilbralter but completely abandoned. There was no sign of a struggle, fire or explosion of any sort. The valuable cargo, money box, ship's log, etc. still remained and folklore has it that dinner was cooking and the table was set!

Theories abound about what could have happened. The mystery was never solved but the tale, at the time, was widely popularized by a Sir Arther Conan Doyle (the Sherlock Holmes guy!) short story. Other books have since been written exploring the various theories about our ghost ship.

(above painting by an unknown artist of the Mary Celeste as the Amazon in 1861)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sunset at Spencer's Island

Of all the sights I typically photograph around the Bay of Fundy, I rarely take a photo of a sunset. However, when I stepped out of my car at Spencer's Island (on the loop from Parrsboro to Joggins to Advocate Harbour, Nova Scotia) into this textured and tinted scene, well, what could I do?

During the Age of Sail Fundy's little villages and towns were abustle with the design, construction and launching of huge ships that sailed around the world. This was especially true in the upper part of the Bay where the receding tides provided a natural dry dock for both construction and repairs.

It doesn't take much imagination then, for a local, to picture a barkentine or brigantine in this picture. I must say I had John O'Brien on my mind when I took this photo - having just attended a show at Ship's Company Theatre about his life and work as Nova Scotia painter of ship portraits at the height of the Age of Sail. I think this is just the sort of pre-storm sky he may have fancied!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Peach & plum bruschetta

There's a voluminous amount of yellow plums on our old plum tree again this year. A few years ago I made up this bruschetta recipe as a way of using up too many plums! Both plums and peaches are readily available from Bay of Fundy farm markets at through late August and September.

Peach & Plum Bruschetta
6 ripe field tomatoes, fist-sized
4 to 6 ripe peaches, peeled
6 to 8 ripe plums, leave skin on
1/2 large purple or red onion (or use green onion stems if you don't like onions)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp or more ground cinnamon
1.5 tsp or more ground nutmeg
2 tsp dried basil
salt to taste (about 1/2 to 1 tsp)
fresh black pepper to taste
grated fresh parmesan cheese
2 loaves French baguette, narrow or wide

Remove and discard seeds from tomatoes. Small dice all fruit & veg. Toss in bowl with seasonings. Adjust salt & pepper to taste. Spread layer of bruschetta mix on bread slices, top with grated parmesan. (
Toast slices baguette first if you don't like your topping to soak the bread). Broil at low heat til heated through. Make more than you think you'll need....they're addictive!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Heath & heather at Kingsbrae Garden

Just after posting about wild heather in Bay of Fundy marshes a few days ago, I had a note from a friend who works at Kingsbrae Garden in St Andrews, New Brunswick:

Our Heath & Heather Garden is one of my favourites at Kingsbrae Garden. I find it a very restful garden, as the colours are gentle, the shapes of all the plants and beds, curvy and soft, with the path meandering through. No straight lines here! It's a great spot for a little meditative break. The heathers bloom at different times of the year, so there's always colour, set against the various greens, from chartreuse through blue-greens, of evergreens and cedar hedge.

Some winters the heathers have a difficult time; they do like a protective layer of mulch -- whether of snow or vegetative matter -- so they are not continually thawing and refreezing. That's true of most plants, but many of the heathers are borderline for our zone. Having the high hedge and wall on one side and our 8 acres of virgin Acadian forest on the other side does buffer them from the harshest winds. Of course, we can't always count on thick snow cover throughout the coldest months, but most years, they manage just fine.

By the way, the scientific name for heather is Calluna vulgaris and for heath, Erica. The many heathers we have in our Heath & Heather garden are compiled in a photo series on Flickr, in case any of your blog readers are interested in knowing more. ~ Maureen
I'd actually happened to have this photo of Kingsbrae's Heath & Heather Garden in my photo gallery - from my visit a couple weeks ago.