Roadside Gardens Galore

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On our first drive through The Great Northern Peninsula back in May we immediately noticed what looked like garden plots squeezed in along the main road. There would be 2 or 3 together often fenced in with an assortment of logs and boards or sometimes with netting. As the temperatures warmed up into June we started to see people working in these roadside gardens cultivating the soil into neat rows and getting ready to plant. Some of these plots were a great distance from any houses or populated areas and we weren’t sure how these remote gardens came to be.

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Our interest in the gardens and gardeners was peaked and after asking around we found out that most of the plots that we were driving past were started in the late 1960’s when the highway was constructed. Up until then gardening had been a challenge due to the lack of plentiful and fertile soil along the coast. However, when the major road was built the dirt was piled up alongside the road where it could be put to great use in growing the main Newfoundland crops of potatoes, cabbages, and turnips.

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Many of the roadside garden plots that we viewed use the Lazy Bed method of planting, which not only looks really neat and organized but is also a great growing method suited for the climate of Northern Newfoundland. As with Newfoundland’s trash bins we greatly enjoyed gazing at the variety of roadside garden plots as we explored the area. In most areas that we have traveled through gardens are often hidden behind house and barns, so we really enjoyed the opportunity to view the uniqueness and creativity of these roadside gardens.

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Canada Day in Pictures: St. Anthony and Goose Cove, Newfoundland

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The parade in St. Anthony begins, on its way to the Polar Center.

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The Fives decked out in maple leaves, with town hall and the library in the background.

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Five of Hearts and Five Ball enjoying a maple lollipop at the playground in Goose Cove.

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Climbing the rocks at Goose Cove.

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Getting a better view of an iceberg drifting by at Goose Cove.

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With temperatures in the 20s (Celsius), this large tide pool was very inviting.

Vinland Vignettes: A Family Adventure with the Vikings of L’Anse aux Meadows

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Vikings in North America?: One of the reasons we choose to spend a month in St. Anthony, Newfoundland, was due to its proximity to L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site.  After being led to the site by a local resident named George Decker, in 1968 archaeologists Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad confirmed the site to be the Viking settlement of Vinland dating back to 1000 A.D. We knew this place was an amazing learning opportunity that we did not want to miss.

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Wind: Our first impression upon approaching the reconstructed Viking buildings was the wind, cold and howling. The younger fives struggled to root their feet in the face of relentless breath ensnaring their every step. The blades of grass on the sod-covered outer walls lay almost flat as the wind gust through, and we expected the feeling in our fingers and noses would not return until long after we got back in the car.

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The Door: Unlike everything around it, the door stood firm against the raging wind. We pulled the handle, and instead of the familiar metallic click, a wooden latch slid silently and the door yielded to our pull. We scurried inside and closed the door. The outside world became silent, and our eyes adjusted to see two Vikings seated on fur-covered wooden benches encircling a fire. We took a seat as well, grateful to be warm.  No howling, no wind, just deep voices and a glimpse into the wisdom of the past.

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Iron Currency: Everything we saw and touched in the hut was hand-made from local materials, just as the Vikings would have done over 1000 years ago. Iron was a precious resource; it took much work and ore to make the small metal bars used for trade, let alone an entire weapon or piece of armor. Each sword and helmet we touched reached back to us, dozens of hands and hundreds of hours forged into the metal itself.

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Viking Hygiene: Our Viking hosts prided themselves on their cleanliness. Unlike most other Europeans at the time, Vikings would usually bathe weekly, even in winter, in scalding basins or bracing streams. And hygiene did not stop at a bath. Labor and knowledge were diverted from matters of food and shelter, flowing into caribou antler until only the teeth of a comb remained.

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Across the Sea and Back Again: Men and women, sheep and cattle, braved the Arctic seas in search of timber and settled where we stood. Skill with iron and boat-building brought them here but were not enough to allow them to stay. The Vikings did not find an empty continent and encounters with Beothuk and Inuit soon turned to clashes. The swords we held and hands we shook could not fight their way through the roots of those already there, thousands of years and people deep. The ships used for exploring an unknown coast soon were loaded once again with people, livestock, and everything of value to those who called L’Anse aux Meadows home for a several summers and winters. The cycle of our day was at an end as well, and we soon turned to let the winds carry us back home, as the Vikings that stood where we stood did centuries before.

The Berg in the Bight is No More: The View from St. Anthony, Newfoundland

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For the past month we have had the daily ritual of checking in on an iceberg just below our apartment overlooking St. Anthony Bight. Whether we were coming or going, we would take a look to see if the iceberg looked different (which it usually did). Alas, the warm weather over the past few days has finally melted our 10,000 year-old frozen friend that likely calved off of a glacier in Greenland close to a year ago. Here is a look back at a month of daily observations.

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Worth the Second Trip: Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve

When we first started planning our trip to the northern tip of Newfoundland Five String was very excited that we would have the opportunity to visit the Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve in Raleigh. This reserve is composed of limestone barrens surrounded by ocean on three sides. As such it has the lowest average annual temperature of any location on the coast of Newfoundland. Surprisingly even with such low temperatures and a short growing season this barren peninsula is considered one of Newfoundland’s most important botanical sites.The unique climate and geological makeup of Burt Cape creates a habitat for over 300 plant species with several of these being quite rare.

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Needless to say were were very excited to visit Burnt Cape. However, when we contacted the provincial park system a few weeks ago about a tour (they encourage people to visit with a trained tour guide) we were told that the tours were discontinued due to budget cuts. Disappointed we drove to Raleigh and viewed the peninsula from across the bay before moving on to other activities. However, our exploration of the Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve was not over thanks to a very friendly gentleman that we met while climbing the rocks at Fishing Point in St. Anthony. He has been a resident of Raleigh all of his life and encouraged us to head back to Burnt Cape Reserve and at least walk the access road to the sea caves that have been carved out of the limestone over time.

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After doing some further research online we decided to take his advice. So, on a gorgeous Newfoundland day we drove back out to the Raleigh and hiked along the limestone barrens. This was definitely one of the most challenging hikes that we have undertaken with the kids due to the distance to the caves and the fact that it was very important to keep the kids on the path and stop them from picking the many flowering species that dot the landscape. However, it provided a good lesson in respecting natural areas, especially one as precious as Burnt Cape. While the kids missed scrambling up trees and jumping over rocks they did enjoy counting the number of different plant species that we saw and looking out at the icebergs that surrounded the peninsula.

Silene acaulis (moss campion), Burnt Cape, Newfoundland.

Silene acaulis (moss campion), Burnt Cape, Newfoundland.

Cypripedium parviflorum, (yellow lady's slipper), Burnt Cape, Newfoundland.

Cypripedium parviflorum, (yellow lady’s slipper), Burnt Cape, Newfoundland.

After what seemed like an eternity to our three little hikers we reached the first limestone cave know as the Big Oven. While we couldn’t get really close to the cave due to a very steep cliff it was still an amazing sight. Happy to move the kids away from the dangerous drop-off down to the ocean, we headed towards Whale Cave, which was even more spectacular since we could see all the way to the back of the cave. Unfortunately, the entry to the cave was a bit too difficult for the younger Fives to manage and they were disappointed to have to sit at the entrance while Five String ventured in alone. However, after promising that we would return when they were bigger the kids settled themselves along the rocks and were content to just look at the awesomeness of their surroundings. They felt even better when Five String returned and presented them each with a piece of maple candy that he miraculously found tucked in the snow in the way back of the cave. Good thinking Dad 🙂

Whale Cave, Burnt Cape, Newfoundland.

Whale Cave, Burnt Cape, Newfoundland.

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DSC01378-picsayFinally we pulled ourselves away from our cliff-side perch and started the long hike back to the car. Along the way we were fortunate to see Frost Polygons, a sign of the extensive frost activity occurring on the peninsula due to extremely low average temperatures. When we made it back to the car we all felt a sense of true accomplishment and appreciation for the super nice Newfoundlander who had encouraged us to revisit such an amazing part of his hometown.

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Frost Polygons, Burnt Cape, Newfoundland.

Frost Polygons, Burnt Cape, Newfoundland.