It has been a little over five weeks since my plane descended into Halifax airport. Like the sandpipers that settle down at Evangeline Beach to gorge themselves on mud shrimp before their long migrations, my wife and I come here to inhale Canadian country air, feast on fresh, locally-grown food, renew our bonds with friends and family, and keep this 220 year-old house from ignominious collapse.

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As part of our ongoing commitment to preserve the place, we had booked two weeks work with Tait Graves, a master mason. He and his crew would take on a task that we had neglected for the quarter century we’ve owned the place– shoring up structural supports for two hearths belonging to the old centre chimney. This particular chimney is massive, approximately nine feet (3 meters) square. There are four fireplaces off the chimney, and one more that was bricked up when the Stewarts had an old building moved and attached at the back. I was going on the simple assumption that we could open up the firebox and have a new hearth built for a future wood stove. The chimney had other ideas.

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Our house faces a seriously decrepit asphalt road that has become so littered with potholes the local speed demons now make a detour to avoid it. A week after I arrived, I went out for an evening walk and was startled to encounter one of our neighbours on a backhoe. He was filling in the potholes with dirt. I saluted his enterprise, anointing him Grand Pre’s one-man Highway Department. At a dinner party the next night, a friend and neighbour suggested we all take the opportunity to plant trees. Maples grow just about everywhere and they would be far more effective than speed bumps. I was all in favor but worried about how we would water them.

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It has been dry here. The homily I heard from my mother goes this way: everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it. We all know now that is not the case. In fact, we are all doing something about it and it is not good. Spring came two weeks early to this part of the planet. The Apple Blossom Festival was scheduled the usual weekend, but the apple blossoms set too early to have any correspondence to the event.

I kicked up dust walking along the dyke lands shortly after I arrived the last week of May. I don’t remember those conditions ever happening this early. Everything is still green, however, and we are glad to have been here early enough to see the long light and the very first day of summer. Unfortunately, we’ll be heading back to Australia soon. Yet another winter.

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Old Post Road used to have a good reputation. It has gone through a handful of names over the years, but thanks to the ardent efforts of another friend and neighbour, the original name has been re-attached to the road. The name hints at its origins; it was the historic route from the town of Annapolis to what would become the city of Halifax. At the time it was built, those towns and Windsor were the only settlements of any significance in the entire province. Horseback riders would carry mail from one place to the other, stopping at an inn across the road for sleep and sustenance.

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Overland mail delivery was slow. By 1766, postal delivery had crept up to once every two weeks from Halifax to Annapolis Royal. Cornwallis settlers could get across the river only at low tide and on horseback until Thomas Lawdon received permission to run a ferry. Everyone complained about the exorbitant fare until it was knocked down to sixpence for a man and horse. Carriages with springs were introduced about 1795. As they increased in popularity, it was necessary to detour around what I still call “Mitchell hill.” At that point, the route to and from the City began to deviate from the original path. The old bridge across the Gaspereau River fell into the water one year during a flood stage and was never repaired.

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We have returned for what may be one of the most significant events in recent Nova Scotia history. Grand Pre has just been designated a Unesco World heritage site, one of only three in the province. I find it hard to imagine what changes this may bring, or why tourists might wish to flock here. It is lovely in summer, but there is really not much to see or do unless you have Acadian roots or happen to like visiting wineries. The winery growth has been astonishing in recent years.

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“It’s so boring here,” say the kids. I smile, knowing that one day they will enjoy peace and quiet, a light wind rustling the clothes hanging on the line. Maybe, just maybe, the UNESCO designation will mean that they’ll patch a few potholes on the Old Post Road. If that doesn’t happen, I’m going to plant some trees. Wait for some good rain so they’ll have a chance to grow.

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Sorry this blog has taken a back seat to my other duties. Stay tuned for more pics and a report on the great unveiling down at the Grand Park Historic site.

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