For a new and upcoming exhibit at the Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse in Gros Morne National Park, Parks Canada is hoping to hear your memories and stories about the use of traditional distress signals in emergency situations. Have there been any shipwrecks or other emergencies in your community? How did people communicate that their boats were in distress? What local stories are attached?
Shirley Alyward from Parks Canada provided this quote as an example:
"Mr Gordon Caines of Norris Point put out a sweater with its arms halfway
up his ship pole that indicated to the Young family on shore that a boat
was in distress."
Plowing under caplin for fertilizer [VA 110-32.2] 1930
International Grenfell Association photograph collection
Fred Coleman Sears photographs
Photo: Courtesy of The Rooms Provincial Archives.
Although it is not quite caplin time – the weather we have been having for the majority of June could be considered caplin weather. The RDF (rain, drizzle and fog) which prevails during Newfoundland’s “spring” and early summer is also known to coincide with the appearance of caplin which roll across our shores late June or early July.
Caplin used on field as fertilizer [VA 14-105] 1939
Newfoundland Tourist Development Board photograph collection
Gustav Anderson photograph album
Photo: Courtesy of The Rooms Provincial Archives.
In honour of the lovely caplin weather and the hope that summer is just around the corner I took this opportunity to select some caplin related pictures for today’s folklore photo.
Caplin used as fertilizer in garden [VA 14-106] 1939
Newfoundland Tourist Development Board photograph collection
Gustav Anderson photograph album
Photo: Courtesy of The Rooms Provincial Archives.
These pictures from The Rooms Provincial Archives show one of the many uses for caplin – as an all natural fertilizer!
In my search for garden fertilizers I also came across this lovely article from the Decks Awash newsletter proclaiming all the benefits of seaweed and fish offal as a natural soil conditioner and compost.
Gathering kelp on Back of Beach [Kenneth Nash]
Jackie Nash personal photo collection
Photo: courtesy of MUN's Digital Archives Initiative
What do you use for fertilizer and compost in the garden? Any tips on what could help a garden grow on this rock?
The benefits of kelp and caplin seen in a potato garden [William Snelgrove]
Terra Barrett personal photo collection
Photo: courtesy of Digest [vol 3, issue 1, summer 2014]
For more information on the local food system check out these videos done by Root Cellars Rock showcasing seniors’ food knowledge.
I've heard that because of our cold start to Spring, locals gardeners are feeling a bit anxious to get started. Surely things will soon warm up and people will be able to get their seedlings in the ground....right? Hopefully this photo will provide a little bit of inspiration, and remind us that the wait will be worthwhile.
Taken in Conche on the Northern Peninsula in Spring 2010, a family works together to dig potato trenches, getting the ground ready for planting. This waterfront garden plot is one that this family has been using for decades. Its location near the ocean ensures that it gets optimal exposure to sunlight, is easily accessed by boat, and can easily access kelp, which is an effective soil fertilizer.
Our intangible cultural heritage office sometimes uses what we term a “project-based training” model. You can read all about that in this occasional paper. Yesterday, we took that model on the road, with a group of Memorial University students, to Heart's Content.
Dr. Jillian Gould is an Assistant Professor within Memorial University’s Department of Folklore, whose research interests include public folklore, ethnography, and fieldwork. Since 2011, her class has been partnering with HFNL to deliver a type of project-based training as a component of the graduate public sector folklore course. Typically, graduate students organize some kind of public folklore event or workshop, a model which engages the public while teaching the students practical and varied skills in facilitation, group work, community outreach, and project planning.
This semester, students are working on organizing a workshop on traditional Newfoundland set dancing, in cooperation with the Mizzen Heritage Square Dancers. Thos dancers will be coming into St. John's to run a workshop later in March, but I suggested that the students go out to Heart's Content, meet the dancers in advance, learn the dances, and be better able to facilitate the workshop when it happens.
So yesterday, two carloads of us drove out to Trinity Bay, and met up with the dancers of Heart's Content at the Society of United Fishermen Hall. The dancers demonstrated two dances, the old fashioned square dance, and the Lancers, and students were able to run through the square dance twice. Then everyone took part in the Virginia Reel, and finished up with a lunch prepared by the community. Students, where possible, did on-the-spot folklore interviews with many of the participants.
Some of the students had never been to Heart's Content, and the set dances were new to most of them. It was a great experience, and everyone was moved by the kindness and generosity of the folks from Heart's Content. At the end, the dancers made sure everyone left with a Heart's Content pin. It was tremendous fun, and a great way for students to see folklore in action, rather than just reading about it.
Stay tuned for more information on the in-town workshop itself.
I saw this ugly stick in a cabin in French's Cove over the weekend and was inspired to take a photo. I'm not sure who made it, but it has all the classic ugly stick features: an ugly head, some jangly noise-makers, a rubber boot for stomping, and some decorative flourishes to make it as unique as possible. I am particularly fond of the pretty feathers on this one.
You can make your own ugly stick with help from the upcoming Mummers Festival. There are two workshops that you can sign up for. Click here to learn more, and we hope to see you there!
If you are in St. John's and are looking to celebrate Guy Fawke's Night this year, here's an option close to the city: Bonfire Night celebrations will be held in Paradise on November 5th, 2013. Wed, November 6th will be the alternate date in case of inclement weather. Location: Octagon Pond Parking lot, Paradise Time: 6:30-8:30 pm
to construction at the Community Centre the small roasting fires
that are usually set up for families will be moved to the pond, and
therewon't be a large bonfire. There will still be free wieners,
marshmallows and beverages given out.
If you would like more information please call the Recreation & Leisure Services Department at 782-6290 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Bonfire Night in general, please check out this previous post.
I'm in Corner Brook for a meeting sponsored by the Qalipu First Nation, and it is a dreary, grey day here on the west coast. I was delighted therefore to open my mailbox and find a note and photo from Shabnam Inanloo Dailoo, the Heritage and Community Engagement Adviser with Western Heritage in St. Albert, Alberta.
A native of Iran, Shabnam was one of the many people I had the pleasure of meeting at the Alberta Museums Association conference last week. She was intrigued by my mention of Bonfire Night traditions in Newfoundland, and asked me if I knew of the end-of-year bonfire traditions in Iran.
Shabnam, who has done research on traditional Persian gardens, describes the photo as a "Persian fresco on the walls of Chehel Sotun Garden (40-column garden) from 17th century depicting the bonfire ceremony.... clearly an intangible cultural heritage associated with a cultural place in an artistic way."
So yes, technically it's Wednesday, but I had to slightly delay the folklore photo this week because of a really exciting meeting I had this morning. I went out to Shea Heights to meet Shirley Holden, who contacted the Folklore office about a tradition she remembers surrounding taking special occasion photos.
Shirley told me this morning that when she was growing up in Shea Heights wells represented a gathering place - kids would hang out on the well and meet up to decide where to play, and workmen would eat sitting on the general store well while waiting for a ride back to work. One really interesting tradition she told me about was taking photos on a well for a special occasion. The photo above is of Shirley (bottom) with her older sister Rita (top left) and her mother Anne (top right) sitting on their family well for a photo, which was taken around 1961.
Shirley remembers always gathering to take photos on the well for anything special: birthdays, Easter, or even Christmas, especially outside of the Vicker's general store window on their well out front of the property. "They put all the decorations and the lights and the little houses [in the window] and so that was your big background; everybody would go and sit on the Vicker's well and get their picture taken ... and it wasn't only us, it was a lot of people that went and sat on the well and got their pictures taken".
Later this week there will be a more detailed recap of some interesting people I have been lucky enough to meet the last couple weeks, including Shirley!
If you have any wells or springs stories to share, please contact me at either Sarah@heritagefoundation.ca or 739-1892 ext. 7
Yesterday evening Tolson Rendell of Heart's Content invited me to observe him shearing one of his sheep. It is a tradition that only two people in the town still practice, the other being his good friend Jack Smith. Tolson will be putting his animals out to pasture for the summer this coming weekend, so has lots of work to do before then. It usually takes him just over 2 hours to fully shear a sheep, and he uses scissors rather than electric shears because he believes them to be safer for the animal. He takes his time and makes sure to do a thorough job. Tolson clearly loves his animals and exclaimed "Isn't nature wonderful!" more than once during my visit. There were many newborns animals around the yard, and I couldn't help but notice how happy Tolson was to see them running around. This photo shows the mother sheep named Black being watched by her new lamb, who wasn't very patient about waiting for this whole shearing thing to be done.
Fermenting your own sauerkraut is simple to do and takes very little preparation time--all you need is a head of cabbage (or more if you wish), salt, and a fermentation pot. I made some last week to help get excited for our Newfiki Festival. This Celebration of Eastern-European Cultures in Newfoundland takes place from March 20th-23rd. I myself am from an Eastern European family in Alberta and so had access to homemade
sauerkraut throughout my childhood. When I was older, I realized that I
would have to learn how to make it on my own in order to help keep our family tradition going. Mine is nowhere near as delicious as my grandmother's, but I am getting there. Here's a photo-guide of what I do:
Step 1: Clean and chop or shred cabbage (shredding is ideal but if you don't have a shredder, a sharp knife will do the trick).
Step 2: Mix chopped cabbage with salt until each piece of cabbage is lightly covered (I try to use the least amount possible, but too little will be detrimental).
Step 3: Put the cabbage into a fermentation (stoneware) pot, a large glass container will do nicely as well. A lid is not necessary.
Step 4: Pack the cabbage down as much as possible, until its natural juices leave the cabbage. I pour in a little bit of cabbage at a time, and punch it down in layers. I am using an official sauerkraut puncher here, but you can utilize any kind of blunt tool, as long as it has been cleaned in very hot water.
Step 5: Once punched down, place a large heavy weight (such as a plate with a heavy sterile stone on it), onto the cabbage. This helps push the cabbage under the salty juices which is very important to prevent rotting--it cannot be exposed to air. If you weren't able to extract natural juices, that is no problem, you can add salted water and keep it submerged under that. Cover the top with a clean kitchen towel to keep dirt and dust out, then store in a warm place
For fermentation to take place, there must be adequate salt and the pot must be stored in a warm place. In about 4-6 weeks the cabbage should be fully fermented and ready to eat. When it has started doing its job, it will take on a sour smell (which you will notice throughout your house), and it will also start bubbling. Be sure to check on it once a week to remove any 'scum' that might be forming on or around the plate. If there are signs of mold, simply remove before it takes over the whole pot. I once met a Bulgarian woman in St. John's who claimed that she could save any ailing sauerkraut, so if something goes wrong, there's always hope.
Good luck making your own sauerkraut and let us know how it goes.
One thing you can count on during wintertime in Newfoundland is that everyone starts talking about the local snow plows. Whether you are happy with their work on your street, or have a dozen things to complain about, we all know that we are better off with them than without. I recently had a chat with Lloyd Smith of Heart's Content about how they used to deal with snow on the roads before the days of the plow. Our conversation was inspired by a photograph he showed me from 1959 of a bulldozer pushing snow off the roads. To see this photo and hear Lloyd's recollections of getting around during the winter when he was young, watch the video below. After that, hear him talk about how the town would use a horse and dray to deal with all the potholes that would appear once the snow had fully melted.
Fingers crossed that we don't get another huge snowfall anytime soon. In the meantime, let's all thank the local snow plowers who are doing a great deal of hard work this year.
The other day, I got an email from Shirley, who writes:
"When I was growing up, it was a tradition in our home that on your birthday your mother would sneak up on you and put butter on your nose to bring you good luck on your birthday. I know none of my townie friends experienced this. So, I wonder if this was something only my family did? Or if it was a outport tradition? My family had connections to Placentia Bay, Bonavista Bay, Green Bay and Corner Brook. Have you heard of this?"
I have indeed heard of it, but it isn't a tradition I'm overly familiar with, and I'd love to know if other people celebrate someone's birthday in this way, and where they are from. A quick internet search reveals a little bit of information, much of it recycled word for word from various websites. The tradition goes by a few names, such as "grease face" and "buttered noses." Another variant is referred to as being "flakied" - where a flaky pastry (notably the Passion Flakie popularized by the Canadian firm of Vachon) is rubbed in the face of the person celebrating their birthday.
The tradition clearly goes beyond Newfoundland and Atlantic Canada. One blogger writes, "When I was growing up in the Floyd/Patrick/Carroll counties area of Virginia, it was traditional to attempt to sneak up on the birthday person and smear butter on their nose. Even our teachers in elementary school would get in on the action, going to the cafeteria and getting the butter." Another American blogger writes that "As the story goes, the butter is meant to help you slide into your new year!"
UPDATE: 14 MAY 2020
Madeline Moore, of El Cerrito, California, writes:
I was born and brought up in Providence, R.I. We children buttered each other's noses on birthdays which meant being chased around all day by a sibling with a hunk of butter on her finger. Mother did nothing more than shake her head. I have lived in California for the last 63 years. Nobody out here has heard of it. A faculty member at UC Berkeley said the custom originated in Cornwall UK. I'm now 86 and it pleases me that I'm in good company.
UPDATE: 22 JULY 2020
David Baxter, who grew up in North Carolina, writes:
I grew up in North Carolina and our tradition was putting black grease on the birthday person’s nose by sneaking up from behind as a surprise. I know of several families in NC that did the same thing. I thought it was a southern tradition, didn’t know it has its roots in Canada. None of my grandparents or parents ever told me what it was supposed to mean. I assumed that it was for good luck. My kids hated it and would run away, my wife from Indiana didn’t understand what it was all about, so we discounted it once our kids got to be teenagers. It made me a little sad to see a tradition die away, even though it was a little strange.
If you have thoughts on birthday butter, black grease, or flakies, email me at email@example.com or leave a comment below.
In the heritage community in Newfoundland and Labrador, the general consensus is as follows: Vinyl Bad; Wood Good. We've seen a lot of fabulous heritage buildings in the province covered up with vinyl, resulting in a loss of heritage character and fine wooden detailing. Vinyl, to some architectural historians anyway, is The Enemy.
For every rule, there is an exception. Today I opened an email from librarian Beverly Warford to find some pictures of vinyl siding that made me squeal with folkloric excitement. Yes. You read that right.
One of the things I love most about intangible cultural heritage is that it is in a constant state of evolution. Culture is not static; it is ever-changing. People adapt to changing times and materials, constantly. This is as true now as it was in the historical period. As a folklorist, it means there is always something new for me to study.
Over the past few months, followers of the ICH blog will know that we've been working on a project to highlight basket making traditions. In a sense, the culture of basket making in Newfoundland and Labrador is one of innovation. Mi'kmaw basket makers in Newfoundland were influenced by mainland Mi'kmaq, who in turn had been influenced by European settlers, as well as Black Loyalist and freed slave basket makers working out of African traditions. Mill workers in Corner Brook, Grand Falls-Windsor and other towns took English and American style baskets and made them their own, utilizing local materials. Inuit grass basket makers in Labrador were possibly influenced by Moravian craft traditions. The list goes on.
Mill lunch baskets were primarily made of woven wood, quite often birch, but Newfoundlanders, being Newfoundlanders, got creative with the materials they used. Once plastic salt-beef buckets were introduced in the later half of the 20th century, craftsmen started to cut strips of plastic for weaving. Others broke down hockey sticks to get the wood they needed.
And in the community of Pleasantview, near Point Leamington, the late Mr. Herbert Brett started using vinyl siding. His son, Rick, also carried on the tradition for a short time.
Mr. Brett's lunch basket is very similar in style to the wooden lunch baskets made by other Central Newfoundland basket makers like Angus Gunn and Alfred Menchenton, with the same curved wooden handles and hinged wooden lid. But instead of the baskets being fully wooden, Brett cut up different coloured vinyl siding into strips to weave the sides of the baskets, making baskets in a variety of styles: lunch baskets, round baskets, picnic baskets, even Easter baskets. We'll be adding all of these to our basket collection on Memorial University's Digital Archives Initiative. But for now, here are a few samples, with thanks to Bev and the Brett/Stuckless family for sharing! Love it or hate it, you'll never look at vinyl siding the same way again.
One of the traditions that we are working to document is basket making. After I did an interview with CBC's Weekend Arts Magazine on basket making (listen here to that interview), I got a call from Frances Barnable about a woven bassinet that she had bought in 1959.
The crib was made as part of a craft training program run by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) and was purchased at the CNIB shop which was located in the building which now houses Coffee Matters, across from the Newfoundland Hotel. If you have any information on that training program, or on other Newfoundland or Labrador baskets, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The poster above was one designed by Target Marketing for the 2011 Mummers Festival. It bears the caption "Terrifying and delighting children for over 400 years" and the image of a handsome mummer (yours truly) peeking out from inside a great grey horse's head. This is a hobby horse - and not the child's riding toy hobby horse most North Americans are familiar with. The hobby horse of Newfoundland's mummering tradition is much more fearsome beastie, with big eyes, and a wooden jaw with nails for teeth, which snock together as it nips and bites at the people it meets along its route. It is an archetypal figure associated with chaos, unpredictability, fertility, and, as the poster suggests, even a little terror.
When we started planning the very first
mummers festival in 2009, we went looking for hobby horses. Chris Brookes, who
started the Mummers Troupe in 1972, had a couple, one of which, "Old Ball" is shown to the right. Local actor Andy Jones had one. One was found tucked away in the MUN Folklore and Language Archive. The Kelly family in Cape Broyle had another, made of styrofoam to replace an older, wooden head.
But other than those few models, very few
existed outside of reminiscences. Andrea O’Brien contributed memories of hobby horses from the Southern Shore, and a man from Bonavista Bay remembered a hobby horse made out of an old cardboard beer carton.
hobby horse was a Newfoundland Christmas tradition which, not particularly widespread in the twentieth century, had seemed to have faded from both the cultural landscape and popular memory in the twenty-first. It was a shame, for hobby horses have a long and complicated history.
Hobby horses (along with their colourful cousins hobby cows, hobby goats, hobby sheep, and hobby bulls) have been here on the island
of Newfoundland for a long time. In 1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert wrote in his "Voyages and Enterprises":
Besides for solace of our people, and allurement of the Savages, we were provided of Musike in good variety: not omitting the least toyes, as Morris dancers, Hobby horsse, and Maylike conceits to delight the Savage people.
"Hobby horse" and "Horsy-hops" both get their own entries in the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, and folklorist Dr. Joy Fraser has included references to hobby horses in her stellar research on mummering and violence in nineteenth century Newfoundland. Fraser includes one account, where a complainant in a legal case describes how “I heard some person running and turned round I was struck on the head with something like a horses head and knocked down I rose on my knees to get hold of the man who struck me and he kicked me on the breast”.
A 1913 Christmas engraving by John Hayward includes, in the background, what can only be a hobby horse (detail below).
Folklore research in the 1960s and 1970s uncovered many stories and references to hobby horses and bulls, but by the time the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador instigated its first Folklife Festival in 2009, very few hobby horses existed, no one had made any for years, and most people had never heard of the tradition.
Mummers Festival coordinator Ryan Davis, working with long-time Lantern Festival organizer Kathleen Parewick, designed a cardboard template to make a hobby horse head, and the hobby horse workshops which were first offered in 2009 have since become a firm part of the annual festival.
The hobby horse workshops have been taught outside of the festival, as part of ICH workshops, community centre outreach programs, and workshops for high school teachers.
Ron Delaney of Bay Roberts has made his own
hobby horse from wood, based on his own memories. In December of 2011, Delaney wrote,
“As a child , growing up in the 70’s and
early 80’s I was mortified of Jannies, I use to hear my relatives talk about
good and bad Jannies , as a result , in my mind they were all bad, especially
the hobby horse. The hobby horse usually was the last Jannie to enter the
house; I could remember scooting in the room as fast as I could when I heard
the SLAP of its mouth.”
One of the participants in a hobby horse
building workshop I taught in Bay Roberts, Delaney brought along Meggie
and Kaegan, who now represent a new generation of hobby horse owners. Another horse foaled that day made its way back to Ontario, to take place of honour as Bottom's Head in a Grade 8 student production of Midsummer's Night Dream.
One of the participants in a 2011 Arts Work Conference hobby horse making workshop I taught in St. John's was teacher Amanda Gibson, who teaches at Amos Comenius Memorial School in Hopedale. She made her hobby horse, then went off to Labrador armed with her new skills. Horses not being common along the northern Labrador coast, Gibson adapted the template, adding hobby polar bears to the list of hobby animals now made in the province.
"The kids had a fun time making them and loved choosing the colors for their 'bears'" she wrote me. "It took a few hour-period classes, but it was a great way to end the unit in Grade 8 NL history on 19th Century Lifestyles for students that are hands-on learners."
This year, 2011, there were hobby horses galore at the Mummers Parade. Everywhere you turned, a gaudily-decorated horse's head was poking up above the sea of mummers and janneys, including one devilishly fine, black and red steed, crepe paper fire billowing from its nostrils.
For me, it was a particularly moving sight, and proof that tradition is sometimes more resilient than we give it credit for. For whatever reason, hobby horse making has struck a chord with a new generation of janneys, and I look forward to new additions to the herd in 2012.
And next year, I think the parade needs at least one hobby goat...
In the late 1970s an American folklorist, David Taylor, conducted a series of interviews in the Trinity Bay area while researching his Memorial University folklore thesis, "Boatbuilding in Winterton: The Design, Construction and Use of Inshore Fishing Boats in a Newfoundland Community".
In "A Good Boat!" - the first intangible cultural heritage podcast - we present short clips of two of those interviews.
The first, dating from March 22, 1979 is part of Dr. Taylor’s interview with Mr. Lionel Pearcey, who was born December 8, 1918, in Winterton, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland. Mr. Pearcey lived most of his life in Winterton, although he would spend time away from home working in mines, as a fisher, and as a carpenter. In the interview, Mr. Pearcey discusses different types of boats, and explains the difference between a speedboat and a trap boat.
The second clip, recorded in Winterton on August 15, 1979, is part of an interview with Mr. Herbert Harnum. Mr Harnum was born November 30, 1919 in Winterton, where he worked as a fisherman with his family. In this clip, Mr. Harnum describes the qualities of a good boat.
To listen to David Taylor’s full interviews with Mr Harnum, Mr Pearcey, and other traditional Newfoundland boatbuilders, visit Memorial University’s Digital Archive Initiative online at collections.mun.ca.
Coffee and Culture at The Rooms
November 3, 2011 @ 2:30pm
Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes Night, was a tradition looked forward to with great anticipation in many communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly by young people. Faced with concerns about fire safety and vandalism, the tradition faded, though it is now seeing a bit of a revival. At this special Coffee and Culture, graduate students in Dr. Jillian Gould's Public Folklore course at Memorial University present oral histories with some of the people they've interviewed who have warm memories of Bonfire Night from years past.
Coffee and Culture programs are included with the cost of admission to The Rooms.
This morning, Peter Cowan, reporter and video journalist for CBC in Labrador, tweeted a link to this story, about Noah Nochasak's journey to Hebron in a handmade, traditional style kayak. It is well worth a listen, particularly the part about Nochasak's run-in with a polar bear.
As a sometimes kayaker, I was interested in Nochasak's construction of the kayak, which is built along traditional Inuit lines, but using nylon instead of skin as the covering. It is a good example of one of the basic tenets of intangible cultural heritage: that ICH comes from the past but is in a constant state of evolution.
A few years ago, I got a "backstage" tour of the collection vaults at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec. In a darkened room full of boats from all across Canada, there was one treasure that stood out for me: a traditional Inuit skin kayak from Labrador. A few pics below:
Last week, I was in North River as part of the Cupids 400 Cultural Tourism Forum. In the afternoon, participants broke into groups to discuss issues of particular interest to them as business owners, volunteers, municipal officials and community leaders. I was asked to facilitate the group on the arts.
The arts (visual, literary, performing arts such as theatre, music and dance) provide a great way to generate activity in a community by: drawing visitors, fostering and supporting the creative talent of youth and artists, enhancing the local quality of life, and giving new life to heritage structures.
Participants brainstormed on possible arts related activities, and one thing we discussed were the key historic themes and traditions in the Cupids and wider Baccalieu Trail area. While not a complete list, some of the local traditions and themes participants identified include: