Author Archives: Thelma

Elevated Taste

All the cats I have known who have lived into their teens have developed sensitive stomachs (a delicate way to say they become barfy). I can confirm that elevating their food bowls somehow lessens this barfiness. I don’t know why this works, but it does, and is highly recommended by both humans and felines.

Prima, in a rare moment of doing what a human wants
The food setup, with divine light from the Almighty and a box of VHS tapes because I can’t throw anything out (see also 1980s digital scale and ancient rug hooking frame).

Also elevated this morning was a head of lettuce, a rare treat for our free-range hens who really are fed up with being cooped up.

In the spirit of elevated dining, I plan to eat my lunch on the roof.

Answered my own question

Since I sometimes digitally clip bits and pieces from old newspapers and then file them without good descriptions, I shouldn’t be surprised when I ask myself questions I could already answer.

Earlier this month I mused about my great-grandmother’s prize-winning entry to a contest in a fishing magazine. I wondered how she remembered the exact details of a fish caught by her sons long after the event and where she got the photo that accompanied the story.

Seems she had already alerted the media to this story in 1936, and I had already read it and filed it away with the very descriptive file name “Guardian_Aug24_1936_fish”. Thankfully I stumbled upon it this morning.

From page 9 of the August 24, 1936 Guardian.

Mola mola

News from the Atlantic Veterinary College of a necropsy recently performed on an ocean sunfish that washed ashore on PEI last November reminded me of a story my great-grandmother submitted to a Bluenose News contest and was published in their July 1948 edition. Bluenose News was a small free magazine published by the Drummondville Cotton Company of Montreal, makers of fishing twine.

July 1948 Bluenose News, Volume 3, Number 3

Cecil and Everett were two of her seven sons, five of whom were fishermen (the other two were my grandfather, Wilbur, who was prone to seasickness so became a farmer and box mill operator, and Elmer, who was a renowned market gardener and poultry keeper).

I’ve always had many questions about this piece. How did Cecil and Everett “give chase” in the slow boats they had pre-1948, and how fast is a sunfish? How did Eva get her hands on a copy of the December 1940 edition of Australian Wild Life in tiny Freeland, PEI? Did Eva have a diary where she recorded oddities like the exact measurements of strange fish caught by her sons and, if she did, where the heck is that diary now?

As I examine this story more closely, I realise that this is probably not a photo of the sunfish caught by my great-uncles, as Eva says “they gaffed a fish like the enclosed picture.” The fellow on the left doesn’t really look like any of my family, and cameras were still pretty rare in the 1940s and certainly not carried around while people were working by the ocean, so I guess this is just something she found somewhere.

Eva loved to read. My mother remembers that when the weekly Family Herald arrived, Eva put her work aside until she had read every word, then she would tell everyone the tales and tips she had learned. Beyond her family’s memories, I only met one woman about ten years ago who remembered going to the Hardy house as a little girl to hear Eva telling stories.

Having a story published must have been a big thrill for Eva and receiving the handsome sum of $10 would have been most welcome, too! I’m sure she told this story again and again.

Bluenose News

The Future is Now

The new fast charger in the Summerside Canadian Tire parking lot is now working. It costs a pretty penny, but I wanted to try it out to make sure I understood how it worked. It’s easy: plug in, wave pre-loaded Flo card at station, press green button, charge. The one at the O’Leary corner Tim Horton’s is also supposed to be online.

Had the funny experience again today of describing what it is like to own a GM product to someone who sells GM products. I’m not usually an early adopter of anything, so this is a funny place to be. Good thing I like to talk!

Shiny new station, filthy new car.
I’ve been calling this connection CHAdeMO, but it’s CCS/SAE…I think!

Lost in Yesterday

Great new tune and video from Tame Impala. I was so busy trying to follow how each person and scene changed over time that I didn’t notice the video aspect ratios also changed to match the decades (see, there is a benefit to sometimes peeking at YouTube comments!). Run Kevin Parker Run!

Logo-a-go-go

I joined the Prince County Hospital Auxiliary in January 2019. I have been a member of the Stewart Memorial Healthcare Auxiliary since 2002, but since our hospital was converted to a long term care facility in 2014, we haven’t had as much to do and I felt I wanted support what is now our hospital.

Now I find myself the co-chair of the PCHA Wishing Well Gift Shop committee while one of our members recovers from an illness. As someone who is consciously trying to not buy anything unnecessary, being the head of a group who sell knick-knacks along with items to cheer inpatients is a peculiar place to be!

I am not going to be much hands-on assistance as I live 45 km from the hospital, and I’m probably not the person to make decisions on buying Chinese-made doodads, so I am helping with things like updating forms, making lists, and creating spreadsheets. One thing we hope to improve upon is the gift shop branding, so I went searching for logos.

I found various digital versions of our PCH Auxiliary logo, but most seemed to be ugly scans of letterhead. I asked the helpful and good natured Bevan Woodacre, PCH Foundation‘s communications officer, if he might happen to have a nice copy of our logo and I was soon gifted with the keys to the Dropbox kingdom! He had been collecting these for some time, and I’m so grateful to him for that foresight.

Ahhhh…so smooth, so nice!

The Wishing Well Gift Shop itself never seemed to have any branding except for the sign above the door. A label on the sign directed me to Marie Ford at the Sign Station in Summerside. I showed her a photo of the sign and asked her if she might still have our artwork. She cheerfully said she would have a look (and the database search took quite a while as they would probably have hundreds of thousands of files). By the time I arrived home, she had sent me a couple of versions of the logo.

Wishing Well Gift Shop logo

With PEI’s plastic shopping bag ban in place, the Wishing Well uses paper bags for purchases, if people request them. I hope to figure out how to get a rubber stamp to start bashing our logo on everything.

I was lucky to find these two helpful and organized people. Life really is all about weaving a web of connections, both online and off.

Aprons Without Strings

While sitting quietly before a yoga class this fall, I thought of the enormous privilege I had being in a warm sunny room with nothing to do but breathe and think only of myself. 

I looked down at my hands and realised that no matter how hard some days can be, I am at the easy end of a line of women who worked hard and had difficult lives, a line that reaches back and back beyond what I can imagine. I can name many of these women six or seven generations in the past, but beyond that, the women fade away. But they do exist in the lines and size and shape of my hands. 

When I hold my mother’s hand, I can reach back to 1848, when her great-grandmother Martha (Ellis) Sharpe was born. Here they are together, likely around 1927, a year before Martha died. My mother, Vivian, would be about five.

Four generations: Eva, Martha, Vivian, Wilbur, 1927

The woman standing on Martha’s right is my great-grandmother, Eva (Sharp) Hardy. Eva’s son, my grandfather Wilbur Hardy, is the fellow in the back. His wife, Thelma, died in 1927, and my mother and her younger brother went to live with Eva and her husband, Ernest.

Stories my mother tells of life with her grandparents are a big part of my story. Eva died in 1952, 14 years before I was born, but if she walked through my door right now, I know I would be able to start up a conversation with her as though we had been together forever.

She lived a simple and humble life and didn’t have many possessions. Eva and Ernest had a small house with tiny closets, really just a couple of hooks behind a door. Her two or three everyday dresses would always be covered by an apron. She cooked every day, of course, baked bread, fed hens, gathered eggs, kept a wood range filled, so an apron was necessary to keep those precious dresses clean.

Ella Oatway and Eva Hardy in their aprons on the cookhouse steps, Hardy’s Channel Sandhills, 1941.

In trying to live more lightly on this earth, I am really just trying to live more like Eva. It has been a long process. I do not live her simple and humble life, and have far too many possessions. I’ve never been hugely into fashion or having lots of clothes, but I once had many more than I do now. My goal is to only have what I really need, take better care of what I own, and buy clothing either used or, if new, produced ethically, sustainably and locally, and only when necessary to replace what is worn out.

I happened to be in Summerside before Christmas on a day when Emily and Amanda, the lovely women who are Ureshii, were having an open studio. I have gotten to know Amanda from another one of her ventures, and we have followed each other on various social media for years, but this was the first time I had looked at their beautiful clothing.

I bought a lovely t-shirt with a block printed strawberry on it, and a pair of their famous (and very comfortable!) underwear. Then I asked if they made aprons, describing what I wanted without using the actual word of what it is: a pinafore. Yes, they did, and after many measurements were taken and fabric options discussed, an apron was in the works.

As busy as they are, the apron was finished in just a couple of weeks. I popped by to pick it up a couple of weeks ago, and it fit beautifully, perfectly. Emily, who is the seamstress of the pair, noted that she had sewn and not serged the edges, thinking I would appreciate it. I certainly do.

After a bit of guidance on how to don the apron, I managed to pull it over my head and they stood back and checked that everything was just right. We all declared ourselves pleased, and off I went to run my weekly errands.

I put the apron on when I arrived home from town, and begrudged taking it off that night to put on my pjs to go to bed. I wore it while I made soup the next day and have worn it every day since. It has a beautiful big pocket ready to hold some eggs from the nesting boxes or a tomato or two from the garden, to shove my hands in when I’m pondering something, to hold some scissors or a little snack. It feels timeless, like I could be here in 2020 or back in 1820. It is perfect.

Unexpectedly, it wraps lovingly around my back. The apron hugs me, keeps me warm, and when I put flour-covered hands on my hips to consult a recipe, the apron is there to keep me clean. Unlike a chef’s apron, there is also no tie to cut me in half (and to be a tut-tutting gauge of how large or small I am at any time!).

My mother and I talk often about her grandmother. We wonder what she would make of this modern world that is so convenient, where laundry isn’t an all-day affair, where you are free to spend your time doing yoga if you feel like it.

Aprons aren’t really necessary now as fewer people cook at home, laundry is a daily occurrence for many, clothing is cheap and almost disposable. But maybe we need aprons, a practical costume to ground us to the tasks at hand, to help us make better decisions about the clothing we wear.

Eva wouldn’t recognize many things in our house if she did walk through the door right now (oh, how I wish she would!), but she would feel very comfortable with this beautiful apron. It connects me to her, and to the women of my past who allowed me to be here, wearing an apron just because it is beautiful and I want to. Thank you Emily and Amanda, and Eva and Martha, and on.

The apron, which deserves a vintage wooden hanger (even though it was likely stolen by my father from the Chateau Frontenac in the late 1960s…je m’excuse.)

Code 3610

As a former dairy farm worker (I always called myself a milkmaid so I could be a maid a-milking), I enjoyed this article that gives a great overview of PEI’s thriving dairy sector in Salty, PEI’s monthly food paper. The tip that code 3610 on a package of cheese shows it was made on PEI is one I’m going to test out on my next grocery trip.

On The Map

I’ve been recording precipitation amounts for CoCoRaHS since November, dutifully recording rain and snowfall and entering it on their database every day around 8 a.m. I told my mother this morning we received over 7 cm of snow in the past storm. This evening she told me that the CBC PEI weatherman had included the snowfall total for Foxley River in his report, and sure enough, here’s the proof from his Twitter account. Proud weather nerd here!

Vina

My mother, Vivian, says her time serving in the RCAF Women’s Division during the Second World War was one of the happiest periods of her life. That might sound bizarre to us now, but even those veterans I knew who fought in Europe only told stories of the funny things that happened, both to keep buried as deeply as possible the horrible events they saw, and knowing those who hadn’t been there could never understand what they had been called upon to do and witness.

Before enlisting, my mother had never travelled more than a few miles from home, grew up without running water or electricity, had been keeping house for her father and brother, and working hard on their farm. She served in Canada and Newfoundland, far from the battlefields, so the war really gave her adventure and freedom from drudgery. There were dozens of other women in her group, and she made lifelong friends.

Amazingly, my mother is still in contact with one of the women she trained and served with, a lady named Vina Trowsdale who lives in North Bay, Ontario. They write to each other frequently, sending long letters and newspaper clippings on things the other might find interesting.

I was just searching to see if there was anything online about Vina and found this great interview from 2015. I just showed it to my mother, and she said this is basically her story, too. Thanks, Vina!

Vina Trowsdale, 2015
Vina and Mom
Vina Trowsdale and Vivian Phillips, Foxley River, 1971, 30 years after meeting in Rockcliffe, ON