Courgette My Love

Feeling a bit “squashed” by zucchini? Only two of my summer squash plants made it through the hens picking most of the garden to death, but, really, there have been plenty of zuccs to go around with only two plants!

Thankfully, The Guardian has a cornucopia of courgette recipes. Just made Nigel Slater’s recipe for sweetcorn cake (I didn’t read the part where it makes two cakes, so ended up with one, which was fine), and last week make this rather odd-sounding but completely delicious Creamy Courgette and Tarragon Cobbler. Both vegetarian and easily made vegan and gluten free.

A pro tip from my mother, who used to grow and freeze oodles of corn: cutting corn off a cob is a lousy and potentially dangerous job, so cook your corn on the cob, then pry the kernels off using a fork. They come off the cob easily as you run the fork along, and stay pretty much whole, so no waste. You also don’t slice your thumb off, which makes everything better. I also find steaming corn is better than boiling it, and that’s what I did for the sweetcorn cake recipe.

Searching

I was up late last night cutting green tomatoes and onions in order to make pickles this morning. It was a windy night and I could hear the sound of a low, steady engine drone. The noise was unidentifiable when I opened the back door near midnight, but my best guess was that someone was harvesting corn, though it would be highly unusual to be working so late.

A large airplane flew low over our house early this morning, then another an hour later, followed by a search and rescue helicopter. Military exercises have occurred in our area in the past, but I guessed it was what I had hoped it wasn’t late last night.

It turns out three teenage boys from the Alberton area went out in a dory last evening, but only one boy returned to shore by swimming. Fishers, search and rescue volunteers, and military and police services are searching the area for the two boys.

The dories used here are flat bottomed and sturdy, used mostly for inshore fishing of oysters or for sport fishing. They are very stable in rough water, but if you are speeding along and your propeller snags on a hidden rope, you can be instantly thrown from the boat. This has been more of an issue in recent years due to the increase in growing mussels and oysters in cages suspended in the water and anchored to the bottom as the anchor ropes are sometimes mistakenly left behind. A couple of my cousins have had close calls just a few hundred metres from here, it can happen so quickly.

Those three poor boys must have had something unusual and frightening happen. My heart is aching for them.

Another plane went over a few minutes ago, the low drone of engines still off to the north. That’s a good sign, the search goes on, and there is hope for the anguished families. I keep looking out at the river.

Search and rescue plane, in the haze of the smoke from fires on the west coast of North America.

1960+60

My parents were married in Summerside on September 7, 1944 . No big celebration, not even one photo of the day, just my parents, their two witnesses, and the minister for a simple service in the church office. A couple of days later, my parents, who were both still serving in the RCAF, went back to their wartime posts.

Their 16th wedding anniversary in 1960 would have been on a Wednesday, the day when all country general stores like theirs, and many stores in the bigger communities on PEI, closed in the afternoon. Why Wednesday? Who knows, but it was a different time, a slower time, and everyone agreed Wednesday afternoons and Sundays were not for commerce.

September 7, 1960 would have been an exception to that Wednesday closure rule because a huge forest fire was tearing through western PEI, burning thousands of acres of forest and destroying homes and businesses. My father probably spent the day evacuating neighbours with his one-ton flatbed propane delivery truck, and my mother would have kept their store open the entire day, even as they were running out of basic supplies.

10 years ago, I published the digital version of a scrapbook of newspaper articles my mother saved during the 1960 West Prince Forest Fire. If anyone has looked at my website, it has probably been to look at this resource, and I’ve heard from hundreds of people who wanted to share their memories of that time.

I was born in 1966, but heard so many stories about The Fire for my entire life that it seems impossible that I wasn’t actually there! The physical marks of the fire were all around me when I was a child, burned stumps and tales of lost buildings. 

I took a walk around our property yesterday looking for the remnants of that fire, and there are very few left. If I didn’t know what I was looking for, I wouldn’t have given the few things I found any special meaning, for they don’t look important in any way.

Here’s a bit of burned tree stump that has yet to be totally absorbed into the spongy forest floor. Most of our land had been in grain or hay in the dry summer of 1960, but some trees stood along the riverbank, and many of those were lost. When I was a child in the 1970s, there were dozens of stumps like this in our woods, but today I only found this one tiny bit.

Remnent of tree burned in 1960 fire.
History is well hidden, almost gone.

Here is the firebreak created by an unknown bulldozer operator to try to save the house that belonged to our neighbour, Ida Skerry. It’s difficult to see this little mound of dirt in a photo, so I doffed my rubber boots to give some perspective! Ida’s house was saved, but her small outbuildings were lost, and bits of melted glass and metal are all that remain of those little sheds. Those fragments of history emerge from the soil every so often, but each year’s cascade of dead spruce needles and birch leaves is burying them a bit deeper, and soon they will stay hidden.

Here are burn marks on our log cabin, a tinderbox that survived only because a bucket brigade hauled water from the river after the electricity poles burned, killing the water pump that had just been installed the previous year when electricity had finally arrived in our community.

When I’m gone, the history of the enormous fire that raged over this small plot of land will will be erased, absorbed into the ground to moulder and disappear, but yesterday we remembered. My mother and I talked about her wedding day 76 years ago when she had just turned 22, and the fire 16 years later that threatened everyone she knew and everything she and my father had worked so hard to build. We felt grateful to be together.

Stay Safe

This has been a challenging Monday morning, plans abandoned as priorities changed quickly.

I decided to take a few minutes to recalibrate and finsh reading a library book so I could return it tomorrow. I found this little note on the back of a library slip which, by the March 31 due date, means it was likely written just as PEI started to lock down and we searched for ways to express our concern for each other in this new COVID-19 time. I went from feeling resentful and harried to feeling present and calm in the space of a few seconds, the powerful combination of surprise and words bringing me back into my body and helping me to feel peaceful. The twists and turns of life never cease to amaze me.

Hummus

Gentle readers, I regret to inform you that Felicity Cloake is correct in claiming that peeling chickpeas makes a nicer hummus. It seems like a silly job, but you could say the rosary or review the Four Noble Truths while doing it for an efficient and holistic win-win!

The best camera is not a camera

I knew my new iPad would take better photos than my ancient iPad 2, but the ease of taking an excellent, well-balanced photo every single time makes using my Canon 6D now seem cumbersome and pointless. Wide angle, portrait, 4K video, it does it all equally well and effortlessly.

No filter.

The low-down on the upload

I took over the volunteer webmaster position for our community website when the previous person moved back to the US a few years ago. He was a coder and I am not, but he assured me I could learn all the PHP and HTML and ABCs easily enough. He was overly optimistic!

I managed to update the website he created a few times by copying and editing bits of code but, to be honest, the site changed so infrequently I had to relearn each time I made changes, and I wasn’t enjoying the experience.

Last year I figured out how to make a basic WordPress site and built a new community site. Today I messed something up and now need to restore the site using a backup I thankfully downloaded. Unfortunately this is my Internet connection speed right now:

By the way, the answer to the question is that I’m getting exactly what I expect to get.

The file is 575 MB, so I think a trip to Summerside (45 kilometres away) to grab some wifi will be in order next week, and fingers and toes crossed the backup works.