Growing up in the Fog

The fog over the cemetery in New Harbour.

A few days ago, I read an opinion piece in the Chronicle Herald called –We are where we live: the cold makes us resilient. 

I feel like I could have written this.  I’ve been saying for years that growing up on the shores of Guysborough County is why I feel like I can accomplish anything I set my mind to.  I love being in New Harbour, but when I lived there sometimes the fog and drizzle could get a little overwhelming.  When I think about the first settlers in New Harbour, I wonder how they made it those first few springs.  Hard, rocky soil.  Constant fog.  Mildew because nothing can easily dry out. And those large, lonely rocks.  Even the forage-able food is resilient: Foxberries, dulse, fish, Labrador Tea, small game & fowl.  Really not much vegetation other than moss and scraggly spruce.  The primary industries are seasonal: fishing, forestry, and paving potholes.  Yet, we still survived.

When Bob and I got married, it was important to me for our friends and his family to be there in New Harbour – to understand where I grew up, because I knew it made me different.  I just didn’t understand how.  New Harbour did not disappoint on the weekend of our wedding.  A wicked downpour moved the rehearsal dinner from outside to inside.  The rain continued overnight, washing out a road and filling the large pot holes with rain.  The fog hung heavy in the morning, and it was so cold.  With such heavy humidity, the 130 hand-rolled, fondant roses my sisters and I had made for my wedding cake were drooping, and the fondant on the cake itself, was sweating profusely.  So much for the beautiful cake I had dreamed of.  At least it still tasted good!  Despite the nasty roads, crazy weather and drooping cake, we had a great time.  There was no other choice.  The weather was what it was.  I wasn’t going to reschedule the wedding of my dreams for a hurricane! That’s just the way it goes in the Maritimes.

It’s also how I know that as a church, we’re going to be ok.  Even if the regions aren’t exactly as we’d make them.  Even if the regions are staffed not quite the way we’d do it.  That goes for congregations too.  We’re Maritimers.  We do what we’ve got to do.  Fog, wind and rain or a beautiful sunny day.  In fact, we’re more apt to do it on the rainy day and save a vacation day for the rare sunny one.

The same is true for Nova Scotia.  Yeah, there might be fewer jobs here, and yeah there might be more senior citizens than working aged folks and children combined, but we’re people of the fog.  We do what we’ve got to do, be it looking after neighbouring seniors, who’s children are living out West or laughing at the idea of a million dollar home.  We don’t want that non-sense…that’s just a larger area to scrub mildew from.  I don’t have time for that!  We’ll be ok as long as we keep working together, we’ll come up with a solution to cross the next large pothole in life.  If you can keep your family alive, living on a rock in the fog and eating salt fish and potatoes, you can do anything.  After all, the fish didn’t come out of the ocean salted.  It took a resilient (or maybe desperate) person to think that one up.  We might not have the same problems we once did, but we still live on rocks in the fog.  We’ll think of something.

Chronicle Herald Opinions: We are where we live: the cold makes us resilient

Labour Day Weekend

Second weekend at “the cottage”!  We didn’t get much work done this weekend, as Harbourview Days were rescheduled from earlier in the summer.  Bob and I were both involved in that.  It was also my niece’s, Ashlynn, third birthday.

We’re still working on making sure the church is weather tight, and are slightly on hold for that until we sell enough pews to pay for repairs to the steeple.  It’s not a bad thing though.  The property needs to be reassessed as there is some sort of clerical error – the online registry states that the property size is much larger (a badly placed decimal) than what it really is.  It also states that there is a full basement (nope) and washroom facilities (where have they been all my life?!? lol) so we don’t want too change too much before reassessment as we’ve challenged our property taxes for 2016.  It’s really easy for there to be errors when your church property is converted to residential.  How many churches actually look at what the property registry says about their property?  To add to the complexity of the situation, the land registry office has been moved from a local office in the district to a “regional” one.  The regional one is in Sydney – 3 hrs away.

On to the brighter, this water cooler came from family friends.  Their cottage was built in the early 70’s (I’ll have to verify when) and they thought the cooler came from the Upper River School House (It’s the first cottage on the left when you turn on to the dirt road through the woods to Lundy).  My Dad started school there and my Mom joined him there for a few months after the Lower School (Albert and Dama Ehler’s) was closed before the new school with plenty of room opened across from Angus and Mary Luddington’s.  No one seems to be terribly sure where it came from though.IMG_0548

My Mom left us a little housewarming/anniversary present when she went over to plug the fridge in for us.  I think it fits in well.


This was the view Friday morning.  Crazy cool.


We (my sister, the kids and myself) took a break from the festivities on Friday night.  We hung out at our place until it was time to go back to the hall.  We found some ancient toys for Ashlynn to play with.  Anyone remember these?


Photo Credit: Mindy Kelly Barrett (on my lap) 4 months, Ashlynn (on the right) 3 years old

Bob was the Minion in the parade on Saturday morning.  We thought we’d have a bit more fun with the costume before returning it.  I think it sums up our odd little family quite well!

Photo Credit: Mindy Kelly
Photo Credit: Mindy Kelly

Hopefully this won’t be our last visit before the snow flies.


So I went to New Harbour for most of my vacation.  Cleaned the church A LOT (I love Lysol with Javex!), moved stuff around and climbed up to the steeple.  It’s quite high up, but I wanted to see for myself just how much rot was up there.  I wish I had gotten my Mom to take a picture (Dad and Bob were on strict orders not to let go of the ladder!) maybe next time.

Anyways, once I got up there, it was pretty cool to see how they structured the inside.  I was also relieved to see less rot than I was expecting. Don’t get me wrong – I could see the sky when I shouldn’t have been able too.  And I couldn’t see all sides of the beams, so there may still be some unexpected surprises.  However, we can now move forward with the plan of just replacing the rotten boards and re-shingling instead of having to re-do the whole end of the church.  Hopefully, with the sale of a few pews, we’ll be able to get it weather tight before winter.  I hope.

Steeple. See the light? You shouldn’t see the light.
Looking towards the other end. I wish the lighting was better. This picture just doesn’t do it justice.
Rotten wood, dirt, bird droppings, and part of the trap door.
Where I accidentally busted the ancient hinge that I didn’t know was there. There was only one way to open the trap door and they hinged it that way from the inside. I had no clue until after I got it open that there were hinges that were rusted in place! The door itself was so rotten that it will need to be replaced.
Busted hinge and a cobweb. Yeah, it was creepy like that.
Rotten wood, dirt, mold?, bird droppings?, and “the wiring”.

On the way back down I removed the last, and nastiest old blind (much to everyone’s amazement!). Once I got all the way down, we decided that we could sleep there, even if there was crazy rain.  We did have a slight problem though.  In the cleaning and mold ridding frenzy, we took down the blinds.  Even if we hadn’t, the strings were so rotten they crumbled when touched.  We set up the former “minister’s room” as a dressing area, but what would we do when the light came streaming in?  After some creative thinking, we setup the tent – an instant room! I just wish I had taken a picture.  Next time 🙂

Normally, we don’t let the dogs sleep with us, but I wanted them to get used to the idea of sleeping in a tent so we could possibly take them camping.  Skipper LOVED the idea.  He happily put himself to bed very early.  Maggie was a different story.  She was awake the whole first night.  Jumping on the air mattress, jumping off the air mattress.  Giving Bob kisses on his forehead, whacking me in the face with her tail.  Kissing me on the forehead while whacking Bob in the face with her tail.  At 4am, Bob, Skipper and I decided we’d had enough of Maggie’s excitement and put them in the kennel.  Maggie was NOT ok with that.  She proceeded to drag the kennel towards the tent.  It’s a big kennel, she’s just 10lbs!  So I rooted around and found a light, shone it into the kennel and told her “night, night”.  We slept until 9am.  The next night went much better.  Less agitation from Maggie.  Skipper is now a devoted air mattress and tent fan.

We’re planning to spend Labour Day Weekend there, which will also coincide with our anniversary. 🙂

Once we get the roof tight again, our next goal is a composting toilet and rain water collection system.  Our goal is to be as “off grid” as possible.  At this point the lot isn’t big enough for a septic field and being as close to the cemetery as it is, we doubt that any water would be potable.  At this point it makes the most sense to bring drinking water from my parents’ place and use rain water for washing hands, dishes, etc.  Our good friends, Jeff and Kara, have a great collection and gravity fed tap system.  We are thinking we will likely be able to rig up something similar fairly easily.  Hopefully, with any kind of luck, we’ll be ready for overnight guests by Labour Day Weekend 2017 – that is if you don’t mind roughing it a little bit 😉

Oh yeah! One last picture before signing off tonight.  This is “our” beach 🙂

Our “beach” 🙂

The river was quite low (we’re in a drought in Nova Scotia) so there was way more beach than usual. Maggie was so muddy after 20 mins of sniffing around down there! lol  I can’t wait to go swimming there – maybe my niece Ashlynn will be up for a little splashing with me on Labour Day Weekend…

The Pews

We’ve had a lot of questions about the pews.  On the May Long Weekend we pulled them out.  Underneath one we found a nickle from 1935.  Kinda cool!

The front side of a nickle we found buried in 70 years of dirt!
IMG_0398 (1)
Back side of the nickle we found under the leg of a pew.

But back to the pews.  So the rot in the steeple is bad.  It’s still hard to tell how bad the rot is without climbing up (my cousin’s son and likely myself are going to attempt this in the near future!) and the climb itself can’t be done with a regular ladder.  Worst case scenario:  the whole steeple and a portion of the front window is rotten.  If that’s the case, we’ll likely remove the steeple and potentially the whole front, scale back the size of the church.  Best case scenario: we only have to replace a few boards and the shingles.  Either way we are still going to need to rent a cherry picker (really big ladder with a basket on top) or a massive amount of staging.  Not to mention purchasing shingles, wood to replace the rotten stuff and labour costs (there’s no way Bob and I can do this on our own!)  We’re hoping that best case scenario costs will be less than $1000.  Worst case scenario costs…well, it’ll be much more than $1000.

As many folks know we currently own a house in New Minas and commute to work in HRM – about 1.5 hours each way.  Our house in New Minas is on the market but until it sells, we are somewhat strapped for cash as at least one car makes the trip six out of seven days a week and usually at least once a week two cars make the trip on the same day.  We are really hoping for a best case scenario with the rot in the steeple – we’ve figured out a way to pay for it!

We’re selling the pews!  Originally, we thought we would turn them into furniture for the cottage, as we’ll still keep a few for that.  This seems to be a much more practical solution.  Here’s the details.

The Journey Begins!

Back in November, Bob and I bought the church I grew up in.  It was a process, let me tell you, with the migration and legal fees being more than we paid for the building itself!  All that aside though, we are looking forward to renovating it into a place where we can stay when we go to New Harbour.  When we shared with our family and friends on facebook about our purchase, people were quite eager to see and hear about the transformation, so I thought we’d share our journey on my website.

We’ll be recycling and salvaging as much as possible, since we don’t really have the funds to do anymore renos than necessary right now.  This could get interesting!

The small landing area behind the church.
Maggie peeking inside.
The stained glass window.
The whole church – and Bob!
inside view (and my Dad)
Mom and Bob at the back, Skipper walking up the isle.
More inside (and my Mom)