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255.9 km/h

I was in Summerside yesterday when our Acurite 5-in-1 weather station recorded a 255.9 km/h wind gust just before 2 p.m. Just glad the house is still standing and the chickens didn’t blow away. What powerful spirit could have flown by and gave the anemometer a spin? Maybe the gitpu (eagle) I spoke to earlier this week as she flew over our house checking out our hens. Message received.

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

Green Black Green Black Green Green oops…

The Waste Watch Residential Collection Calendar brochure for the first six months of 2020 arrived in the mail last week. I use that brochure to mark on our household calendar which weeks are for compost and which are for waste, plus the once-a-month recycling.

I got to May and the familiar green/black/green/black pattern for compost/waste/compost/waste broke! The last week of May and first week of June were both green, indicating we should put our compost cart out twice in a row. I checked the calendar for the other region of PEI (that has a waste pickup the week we have compost), and they had two consecutive weeks of waste collection.

I thought that maybe they had to move the schedule around so were repeating the weeks to get them into a new order, but there wasn’t any note saying “hey, this is why your compost is going to be picked up twice in a row.” Hmmm.

Curiosity got the best of me and I had to know if this brochure was correct. I waited a couple of days in the hopes that I wouldn’t be the first calendar nerd to call Island Waste Management Corporation‘s customer service line. They really do have the friendliest staff, so when I explained what I had discovered on their calendar, the lovely woman on the other end said that they had already received a few calls about this, which they really appreciated. The brochure had gone to the printers before it had been properly proofed, so the calendar should not have two consecutive weeks of green or black.

So, ignore the calendar, keep the compost/waste pattern going, and we’ll all get through this together.

Watts up?

So much has been happening this fall. I’ve been trying to catch my breath since the beginning of October. Things are finally slowing down and I can reflect a bit more on the fun bits (the not-so-fun bits can just scram!).

We had the fantastic experience of hosting three people who were doing the inaugural walk of a new 700 km trail around Prince Edward Island in October. I met the trail planner, Bryson Guptill, at Peter Rukavina’s unconference in June, so when I heard on CBC Radio that Bryson was having difficulty finding off-season accommodation in the western part of PEI, I emailed to offer him a bed and transportation to and from their trail.

A commemorative medallion from Bryson and gang, created by potter Michael Stanley.

They ended up staying for three nights over two weekends. It was fun to meet some interesting people and play the role of “trail angel.” They were delightful guests and it was great to support their dream. Bryson has just finished a book about the trail that is at the printers and will soon be available at The Bookmark and Bryon’s Etsy store. And Peter created this great map of the trail, so it all comes full circle!

Our solar panel installation was completed October 9, then we waited for Maritime Electric to install a second meter to finish the process and hook us up to the electrical grid. Some unfortunate miscommunication meant that didn’t happen until the second week of November, but now we are up and running. The amount of electricity we are generating isn’t spectacular, but it has been quite cloudy of late and the sun is low in the sky. You can see some of our stats here.

Watch an animation of our solar panels at work on December 11, 2019.

Last spring I started thinking about purchasing an electric vehicle to replace my 2012 Honda Civic. I will outline my EV shopping experience shopping some other time, but the quick version is that I was told more than once that no one wants an EV on PEI! I finally found someone who wanted to sell me an EV, and December 5 I took possession of a 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV from Township Chevrolet in Summerside. My first impressions: quiet, torquey, high-tech, efficient, fun. I still have some things to figure out, but so far I really enjoy driving it, especially the one-pedal feature. I didn’t really pick the colour – it was the first 2020 to arrive – but I quite like it now. It is certainly a switch from driving a white Civic surrounded by dozens of other white Civics!

Oasis Blue. She’s called Greta.

My go-to electricians, Moore Electric, installed a Level 2 JuiceBox Pro 40 charger a couple of days before I got the Bolt, so now I drive into the garage and plug in to my own gas station. The last time I bought gas for the Civic was on a windy, rainy day, so good riddance to that and the grubby pump handles!

We took the Bolt to Summerside last Saturday, a trip that A Better Routeplanner says is 47 kms one way and takes 39 minutes and should have used 10% of our battery, which was not a bad guess. To get our battery back up to 100% when we returned home, it took the JuiceBox 4 hours and 37 minutes to add 30.751 kWh. This is a whole new world of numbers, and numbers just aren’t my thing. Someone asked me today what my mileage was for the Bolt and I said, “good,” and it is, I expect! I will figure it all out some day.

Sprinkled over these past couple of months have been many committee and board meetings, a course through Holland College about how to be a more effective board member (not being on so many committees would likely help!), and a couple of fund raising events. I’m am looking forward to a bit of winter hibernating and ruminating.