The Ladies at the Stilesville Sugar Woods

This weekend, we were happy to share our yearly tradition of going to the maple sugar woods in the Moncton area at Stilesville.  In late March to early April, if you’re visiting or passing through — we recommend the experience of seeing a maple sugar operation and most importantly, try different types of maple products (and my favorite, taffy).  Maple sugar production is one the proudly local New Brunswick products.

Sheena, Abby and Janice took our neighbours on the walk to see the Trites family operation.  During a scenic walk through a maple forest, you can watch three family businesses at work and have a breakfast in a log cabin — with the Canadian staples of pancakes and maple syrup.

Remembering Willow

We are saying farewell to our dog Willow, who was a friend and very much a part of our family.  Back when we first moved to Belleisle, I was lucky to find such a good dog from a nearby shelter.  She was about a year old at the time and was just waiting to have fun with our young family.  In time, we figured out that she was part Malamute and Border Collie and was very smart, taking to training well.

The kids grew up with her being around as we took Willow everywhere with us.   She even herded the kids every now and then when they went too close to the road.  She loved running on the trails behind our house and we’d often catch her out of breath coming back from her morning run.  She also had an affinity for rolling rocks around with her nose, and in the winter, trying to make large snowballs with her front paws.  We would be entertained with all the different displays from her endless energy.

With all that energy to burn, Willow was also an excellent hiking dog.  She followed me all over, through rock and water, snow or mud.  Whether I biked or hiked, Willow kept along.  A few times even after 30 kilometres of travelling, she stayed with me.  She even accompanied us kayaking a few times, just wanting to swim.

A couple fun stories about her: The picture below on the top right was taken the night she helped me out of the woods one evening.  I had left the house on a supposedly easy biking trip, got turned around in the woods only a half hour from my house while trying to skip a blocked section of trail.  I had taken a short cut hiking through the woods (with no compass – bad, bad).  After I spent half an hour wandering in a direction which I thought was the way out, I realized I was lost.  Just as I had resigned to wait the night out in the woods and face the music in the morning of being unprepared that evening, Willow turned around and started walking along in the opposite direction!  Willow knew her way and showed me by returning back to the original trail. I had Sheena take a picture to remind me of my poor choices and thankfulness for the companion that night.

Another time, we were biking nearby home and we came across a big black bear eating berries.  The bear didn’t see us and Willow ran up to it and barked so loudly at the bear, all the hair on the bear’s back moved in shock and it scared off into the woods.  The funny thing is, so did Willow — and took off in the opposite direction on the trail after she saw the size of the bear!  I called her and called her to come back to me and we eventually kept on biking.  But after that and for the next hour, every twig that cracked under my tires, poor Willow jumped in the air.  I was thankful that she had that protective instinct whether she knew it or not.

There are many more stories about her that we will all remember.

Below is easily my favorite picture of her, taken by my friend Kris on one of our long hikes to upper Mary Pitcher Falls, New Brunswick.  Willow certainly was a great companion to all of us.

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Skating: Canada Style

What happens with a stretch of sunny winter weather; the Olympics on television day and night; a flag; and a provincial holiday weekend? Skating and pond hockey.  In the past couple of days, we headed out to our local ice and took along our sticks for a family game.

Abby practicing her moves!

A few pictures from our pre-game warmup.

They wanted faceoffs!  Here you go girls.

Just a beautiful set of days in our neck of the woods.

Rebecca had a few practice moves as well.  We are lucky to have a nice spot so close by.

RJTW: Saint John

Our ladies have been excited to participate in an indoor track event “Run Jump Throw Wheel” as advertised at school.  For weeks before, they talked about the event held in Saint John, occurring usually every couple of months in the winter.  Ages 8-14 are allowed to enter events such as running, sprinting, long jump, high jump and shot put.  Its such a fun chance to try out events in an organized way.

I love Rebecca’s saying on her shirt.  I only seemed to notice when processing these pictures!

Here’s Abby in the standing long jump and Rebecca in one of her two running events, this one being the 150m.

I was proud of Abby trying the 60 metre.  She was in a large group of older girls.

I took a couple of videos of the events.  More videos didn’t work out as both girls were doing events in different places at the same time.  As well, to add some fun context to the last clip in the video:  Rebecca was one of the last to throw the shot-put.  Her first throw was a bit short and the judge said for her to try and hit the ‘measuring’ guy in the head.  Rebecca pushed it out so hard that she gained an extra metre and made her arm sore after (hence the face!) .  I laughed for a while after that one.

RJTW video

The next event is a regional/provincial one in March.  We’ll definitely be doing some more practice for that event.

Christmas in Mabou

A special treat for us this year was traveling to Mabou for Christmas. The best part of coming to Mabou are the family traditions.

On our pre-festivities day, we went for a walk to experience the wind and waves on Inverness beach.

As we quickly found the sea foam was plentiful due to the high waves swamping the beach. We spent our time dodging waves and attempts at searching for seaglass.

With the arrival of Laurena and Nick, we had two screaming kids – jumping up and down akin to old film of anxious fans finally seeing the Beatles arrive a venue. In the midst of it, Abby did let out a contemporary saying, “Uncle Nick is Epic!”

We also had an unplanned and soon to be annual beer exchange from our respective provinces (Picaroons and Big Spruce being the favourites).

Our first festive gathering is on Christmas Eve at my uncles and aunts place, an annual event for the past 40 years and more. For ourselves living away from Mabou, we realized our last time being here was 6 years ago. It was a great time to catch up with family, usually divided into adults upstairs and the wild kids downstairs moderated by the oldest ones.

An unexpected highlight was the clothes twins, my sister Laurena and cousin Mairead.

The Christmas Day was the usual traditions with a bit of music and then a crazy wind storm brought by Les Suetes. Here’s the girls with their uncle .

A hit during present time was Rebecca’s notes with her presents.

For Boxing Day there has been a skate and hockey game with our family cousins and outlaws for several years now. As the years go by, the kids are having more to play. They even had a crazy coach for a while.

The adults took turns in net.

Its was another great year for the Beaton Hockey League.

On our downtime, despite that there wasn’t much snow this year so far in Cape Breton, that fact didn’t stop us from sledding.

In a summary of the trip, Sheena made a quick video of some of our fun: See the video.

Christmas Players

On the last part of their fall season, Abby and Rebecca were practicing for roles in their school’s Christmas play, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”. The play focuses on how Rudolph was treated by other Reindeer. In a synopsis from Rebecca, “you have to be yourself and no matter what others think about you, you should always stay who you are. ”

Abby was lucky to be chosen in the lead role as Rudolph . Rebecca joined her as one of the other Reindeer. They practiced their roles and lines daily in school and at home. It was a big thing for Abby as it was her first time acting and also memorizing lots of lines.

But with all their hard practice, they did very well and made us proud! There were two shows for the parents — and both were treated to a meal at Mama Georges afterward.

Great work ladies!!

A video compilation of their acting…

https://youtu.be/Big8g-ogXwM

Christmas Tree Hunting

Before the first big snowfall later in the day, we decided it was time for us to head out and find our Christmas Tree.  We had a quieter time this year and had just our family out for the annual tree hunt.   We started off with Rebecca deciding she needed to play with some ice for most of our time hunting.  As a bonus, we were joined by the cat and dog, following us through the woods.  Abby picked out our tree this year.

Hope you enjoy a video Sheena made of the experience: Christmas Tree Hunting

Creative in the Family

IMG_1911For those that may not know, Sheena has been back to university this year and is in her first year working toward her social work degree.

On the surface, her courses have been interesting to see from an outsider’s perspective and how one does university education over distance on the internet, which challenges our past experiences of on-campus, test and exam-taking experiences of ‘learning’.

One neat effect I also hadn’t considered is that having someone in the house continuing their education does open our minds again to critical thinking and refreshes our understanding of current trends and research. I find it is positive for everyone in the house.

Her current course is about understanding oppression in our society. As part of the course, she chose to make a creative project as her final assignment. This is just another example of changes in assessment over the changing means of education. In these newer ways of assessment, Sheena could have written a 12 page paper; written a journal with a 5 page paper; or develop a project tied into a 5 page essay for her final assignment.

Using her musical and writing talents, she wrote, preformed, produced a song about her topic. Making her creative work even more moving was involving both Rebecca and Abby in her recording. I had to include it for all of you to listen.

Here it is:

Will you still love me when I’m different?”

https://youtu.be/6REyMaopAVA

After listening to the music – without any expertise in the topic – I couldn’t help but being impressed. It would be hard not to also mention that proud tear was shed in hearing the kids voices recorded in her ‘technical university work’. 🙂

Fall Water Beauty

Made a trip up Belleisle Creek from Belleisle Bay today.  

I saw lots of ducks avoiding the hunters and hiding in the tall grass.

Farther up the creek, it was so calm at times that the only sound was from leaves falling from the trees.


You can see I brought my buddy Voisine to keep the bow down.  On the way back, I tried out some canoe poling.  What a workout, but it made for a fast trip back.  

Fall Canoeing in Hampton 

In the warm weather, we had a little Thanksgiving paddle on the Kennebecasis.  The girls had fun in the mud during our stops.

Rubber boots anyone?

Always a serious bunch.

The maple trees that line the river are spectacular.  The girls also had fun peering in all the otter homes.