Apsey Brook

The roads that weren’t

Likely few know or remember it now, but back in the late 60s or early 70s, Random Island nearly had 2 more roads.  Some may still remember near the Apsey Brook cemetery they had even cut a “line” going through the woods, passing near Island Pond (not whats labeled Island Pond on the map, that’s Fox pond),  curving round it, and passing between the two ponds of Double Pond to meet up with the road to Bluff Head Cove Pond.

I really don’t know the real reason for this planned road, rumors had it it was mainly as a convenience for the ministers, but not sure how much influence who had on whom to get it started. It would have been nice for all of course, to be able to more conveniently connect to Petley, Britannia, etc, but unfortunately, it never came to pass.

I’ve added this map with the route highlighted, you can still make it out on the map.  Link to unhighlighted version below.


If memory serves correctly, there was another “line” cut from Lower Lance Cove to Deer Harbour before resettlement quashed that.  I seem to recall it even being started and being able to see the road going up over the hills, though my memory may be manufacturing that.  Others can correct or confirm!  But if you use the link here, https://www.google.ca/maps/@48.1375084,-53.6848017,2386m/data=!3m1!1e3 and scroll around, you can see google even highlights the “road” that wasn’t to Deer Harbour.

I’ve never made it down there, nor to any of the other abandoned communities out the end of the island, something I hope to correct someday, but it’s very disappointing to me that this road in particular was never completed.

So much work, gone for naught, communities that may have prospered, abandoned.  More money spent on resettlement than a road would likely have cost, especially since it had already been started.

Dead Man’s Bubble

I guess growing up about 400 feet from the ocean, the beach was a normal part of everyday life for me.  Not a sandy swimming beach mind you, though it was more sandy than some.  Random Island is like two separate sections from the beach perspective (at least on the Smith Sound side), up in Apsey Brook and Snook’s Harbour its mainly granite sand, and worn pebbles, while down in Britannia it was mainly slate and shale.

I loved to spend time down there, sitting on “Big Rock” when the tide was out, making messes in the mud, looking for brannistickles, , trying to grab a trout under the old bridge, and of course skipping stones.  Skipping stones was harder though when there were very few flat stones. The slate and shale was better for that I guess!  But I know we still managed, and if you got the throw just right, you could manage with a rounder stone too.

One thing we did try to do was make a Dead Man’s Bubble.  Whats that? Well if you throw a nice fairly round stone way up high and nearly straight up, it would fall down into the water with a “bloop” sound making a bubble of air rather than a splash.  It was tricky to get right, but I’m sure I spent hours attempting it!

I can see me now down on the beach below Aunt Mary’s throwing rocks up into the air, and hoping to hear that elusive “bloop”.


Da worst ting about smokin fish….

Is keepin ’em lit!

I know I know, bad joke!  But was thinking about years back and how lots of fishermen’s stages had a smoker on the side of them.  I don’t recall any ever in use, but Roy’s stage back in Apsey Brook had one, and was often a good spot to hide when playing hide and seek. It was just a tin lined “chimney” with nails sticking out going up the sides.  Roy, and of course whoever else used them would hang caplin or herring up in them, light a fire at the bottom, generally with alder wood, and smoke them to make… well smoked caplin and kippers!

I love the taste of smoked fish of all varieties, and when we got a little older, Eric and I bought a little electric smoker between us.  Had a little element in the bottom with a small pan, and we’d add wood chips and let them smolder to smoke our own kippers, and lots of other things, but mostly trout and our own moose and beef jerky!

We could buy all kinds of chips, and of course get our own alder, and sometimes apple and others.  We’d experiment with making different brines to add different flavours (hmmm did I ever tell the story of “Who put the salt in the punch?”) and smoke lots of different things, including trying cheese on one or two occasions.

Junior Patey used to love trouting, but he was never really find of the trout, so he’d freeze a lot for his family, but one day he tried the smoked ones Eric and I made, and he loved them, and whats not to love? Its like fish bacon!  Anyway, over the next few weeks he emptied his freezer of trout and smoked them all!

I know Eric still smokes stuff now, and I do too, tho for me its smoking bought stuff as there’s not many trouting holes here in the city (plus I have no idea if half these weird fish up here are fit to eat anyway, I liked that we had trout and only trout back home).  Eric sent me up some jerky he made last year, and I think it lasted all of 20 minutes, cause I was sparing it along!

Anyway, keep yer fish lit, and have a smoky ole day!

Sweet Leaves, Frankum, and Spruce Buds

Sweet Gale

The other night I had a memory of being on the grass on Celie Burt’s garden in Elliott’s Cove, with Tony Burt I believe, but that part of the memory is foggy.  Its my most vivid memory of eating something we all ate as kids I’m sure; sweet leaves.  Eric and I were trying to figure out what they officially are named earlier, and thought they might be Sweet Gale, but that grows up to a meter high and that doesn’t sound right, but maybe so.

We used to chew them up and they had a delicious sweet taste, that I do remember, and we spent a lot of time pulling them out and getting that sweet juice.

Another thing I’ve had occasionally, and came back to me with the same memory, and I’m sure others have had even more frequently is the soft new growth that pops out from the spruce buds in the spring of the year.  I’ve read it’s good in salads, and can be brewed into spruce beer.  I’ve had both (the growth and the beer) and while one may be derived from the other, I’m not sure what I had was, as the beer was disgusting, while the buds weren’t that bad!

Lastly there’s frankum.  I doubt many of the young people now have had it, or even heard of it, but the older generation used it like chewing gum.  Its the hardened resin from a spruce tree, and Dad used to cut it off and trim off the bark, and start chewing it.  Its a bit hard to get going, and tastes a bit barky till you get it going, but its not that bad!  The worst part is if you didn’t get a nice hard piece, you ended up putting raw sticky resin in your mouth, not a pleasant experience!

Christmas Concerts of Old

I went to my nieces school Christmas Concert today, and was reminded of those of old.  Until the old one room school was torn down in Apsey Brook, it was still used as a center for events, or, as we knew them “times”.  Baked Bean suppers, Pot Lucks, Soup Suppers, all held to raise money for something or other and to be a social event as well.

One thing we always did as well was have a Christmas Concert, or Recital, or time. The parents, or church or someone, I forget who in lots of cases, would work with the kids to learn songs, and skits, and they’d all get up on that little stage and perform them.  A supper of some sort was cooked, and a crowd of people chatted and yarned and told stories, and the kids whooped and hollered.

The parents would all have a gift prepared and later on Santa would stomp his way in shaking snow off himself, or mud as the weather might be, and stomp over to the tree with a hearty HO HO HO! Even as kids, we all knew Santa was Ross, or at least I think we did, but it still didn’t make a difference in the thrill of him coming in with a big sack with a gift for every kid, prepared before hand by the parents.

Gifts in those days weren’t as big an affair as now, at least not at these events, and I remember seeing pencils, Hilroy exercise books, Hot Wheel’s cars, and other smaller items, but it was a huge deal of fun for all of us.

Later on, when I was a more adult kid (well that still applies now doesn’t it) I too took on the role of Santa, though I doubt I gave it the same performance as Ross always did.

Similar concerts were held at every community on the Island, and at different times, so we could attend them all.  We had relatives everywhere of course, and we often went to those in other towns as well, each with their own Santa, and little gift, and supper and Christmas Cake and holiday cheer.

Times aren’t like the used to be, and while we’ve gained lots, I’d love to be able to head off to the old school for a “time” too.

Traipsin over the Goowhitty

This is my favorite time of year.  I love the crisp October mornings, even if we’ve not really had one yet.  To walk in behind Apsey Brook, in on the level, boots breaking the ice skim on the puddles, crisp air in your nostrils, its as close to perfect as I can imagine.

The only downside is the smell of the goowhitty leaves and flowers both alive and dead giving off their distinctive smell.  What is goowhitty you ask? Go Whetty? Gole Weddy? Many pronunciations, but as for what it is, well its….. goowhitty! Everyone knows that!

Well actually its a combination of plants, or one with many names, or… I’m confused.  In any event its Labrador Tea, Lambskill, and Sheep’s Laurel.  Though one or more of those may be the same thing! One of the plants at least is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalmia_angustifolia.

Whatever it is, I think every rural Newfoundlander knows the smell.  Its not really a bad one, but something we’re all familiar with as we traipse through the woods, to the pond, to the berry barrens, to our heritage.

If you get a chance, take a walk in the quiet woods soon, smell the goowhitty, play with the ice skim on the puddles, be a kid and pull it up and look through it like glass.  Smell the frost, the salt air, and be at peace.  There’s no feeling like it.

Apple Pickin Time

Near the road back home in Apsey Brook, on Uncle Luther’s Land (I guess Carol’s? Meghan’s? now, well thats irrelevant :)) is Dad’s apple tree. Its Dad’s because his grandmother gave it to him, so its a little bit old now.

I’ve not had an apple from it since I moved here I don’t think, but my mouth waters now just remembering them.  Around this time of year, probably a little later if you liked them ripe, was time to start picking the apples.  I preferred them a little unripe, and still green, they tasted pretty much like Granny Smith‘s then.  Later when they got yellower and some frost got into them, they got a little mushier, and more like a Golden Delicious, not my favorite.  And in general not most others either, as the old folks would say they were only fit for apple sauce and pie then.

The tree brings back a lot of memories too.  I remember taking a book from the bookmobile  and laying back on the big branches reading for hours on end while leisurely eating apples.  I also remember hundreds of friends and strangers coming to the door looking to buy a bag.  Some years there were soooo many it seemed there was no end.  Others there were less, but usually there were tons.

I remember one year, I sooooo wanted a pair of $200 hiking boots from Roses Plumbing in Clarenville (yeah, shoes, at a plumbing store… ).  I sold enough apples a two dollars a CO-OP bag (our major supermarket) bag full to buy those boots.  And those weren’t like today’s bags, there were soooo many apples stuffed in them!  Plus on top of that we gave plenty away to friends and family and had more than enough for ourselves. Shame of it all is Mom accidentally threw those boots away a year or so later!

Of course everyone made pies, and apple sauce, and baked apples for dessert.  But my favorite was to eat them raw, or to have moms green apple and green tomato pickles (like a chow chow for the non-newfoundlanders). I love those things so much, don’t want a lot, but it adds such a taste to the traditional Sunday supper cold plate.

Of course there are other memories too.  The tree was near a huge bed of wild roses.  Those things smell terrific but there’s no way to control them.  We’d try to trim them back and keep them somewhat under control, but they also did help provide a barrier to the thieves.  Yes, crime was rampant back in those days, and likely still today.  At least the crime of young people robbing apple trees, its a rite of passage!  Even with my own tree, I’ve participated in this rite.  Something we all did.  In earlier times, you could get an ass load of salt for your troubles.  Some of the older folks would make their own shotgun shells filled with coarse fisherman’s salt and shoot those heinous robbers.

I never did it often, nor got caught (at least that I remember) but I did scare quite a few people out of our tree.  The one time I remember best was when Dad and I scared Jason Bailey out of the tree, and he jumped…. right into the rose bushes.  I can still see dad now, bent double from laughing so hard as Jason was scratched to pieces in those old trees.  I don’t know if he ever came back to steal some again, but I am pretty sure he still remembers that night!

Bare Mountain

As you come down over the hill along by the cemetery in Apsey Brook, looking straight ahead and way way down, you’ll see a bare rock face off in the distance.  I’m not sure if this has a real name, but I always called it Bare Mountain, and as a kid had a great desire to go there.

Well when I got older, myself and my usual partner in crime decided to do just that.  We were talking about it the other day, and how good it would be to have today’s phones and cameras back then.  We walked down to the steadies coming from Friggin’s cove pond brook, and made our way over the barrens and bogs keeping the hill in sight as best we could. I’m not sure if it was this trip or another, but I remember getting so hot at one point I soaked my shirt in a bog hole and put it back on.

As we walked we were steadily climbing, and eventually we made our way there, or at least to a spot that we called there.  I seem to remember Eric taking a couple pictures with a disposable camera, but I can’t remember, and with film cameras who knows if they even came out.

Until we were talking about it the other day, a lot of the details had escaped me, but I remember now that we could see Snook’s Harbour in the distance, and strangely, there was a metal survey marker in the rock.

Looking at Google maps now, trying to pinpoint the location, but I can’t I can only surmise its somewhere on the highlands over bluff head.

Has anyone else ever been there? Know anything about the survey marker? I’d love to know more about it!

Going nuts!

Beaked Hazelnut

Near Andy Marshall’s house, by Apsey Brook before Hurricane Igor pretty much wiped out the brook area, there were a few beaked hazelnut trees. We didn’t really gather them for anything, but come late summer, when their spiny husk started to dry and the brown of the shell started to show through the husk, we’d always like to go get a few for a treat.

Across the road from Random Island Academy there was also a field that we used for sports and activities, at least until the brook shifted and washed a lot of the field away.  There were many many of these trees there near the brook as well, and early in the school year we’d often go across at recess and lunch to get some.  But to be fair we mostly threw them at each other then rather than eating them.

They were much more abundant before the great squirrel invasion.  For those that don’t know, or are too young to remember, squirrels aren’t native to Newfoundland, and are only a recent comer.  I don’t think I ever saw one before my teens, maybe later.  Wikipedia says they were introduced in 1963, but if so it took a while before they became the overpopulated nuisance they are now.  In any event, most of these wild nuts seem to be consumed by them before we ever got a chance to get any.

Would make ya go nuts wouldn’t it?

But it’s not Monday!

Sunday mornings I usually get up and do my laundry, and of course today being Sunday, I did so today.  It was a little easier than using the old wringer washer though.  I just put it in, and turned it on, and then later threw it in the dryer.

But I can remember Mom using one very similar to this, putting the powdered detergent in, not  the fancy schmancy liquid stuff like today.  Also adding bleach, and using clothes blue in those little blue cubes.  Who remembers that?!

Back then the old folks for some reason had certain days to do things, and if you didn’t follow the routine, it was a source of something to talk about.  I guess gossip helped pass the time then as much as it still does now!  I remember Monday’s were laundry days, and if you did some on another day, why, that was big news!  I can recall even now my Aunt Mary saying to me when I went down for a visit “My garr, your mothers got clothes on the line again today, how much does she wash at all!”

I guess for the older folks, in some cases routine was necessary, and useful for planning, and the more modern times of the late 60’s and 70’s were a bit much to handle :). We all know that the level of cleanliness has continually improved over the years, as we understand more about our health and disease.  Back in earlier days a bath once a week was a lot, let alone the daily or more showers of today, so likely clothes were changed less too!

But laundry then was also a big production, wheeling out the machine, hooking the hose to the sink, filling it with water.  Prescrubbing the really dirty items with the old scrubbing board in the tin wash tub, then putting it in the machine and letting it agitate for however long, then taking the clothes out and running it through the wringer, being careful not to lose an arm in there! Those things were dangerous! Once all that was done, you still had to take it out and put it on the clothesline.

We had the advanced technology of having the clothesline on a pully, so we’d just go to one spot, and pin it and wheel it out, but lots and lots did, and maybe still do (because lets face it, clothes off the line is STILL so much fresher than from the dryer), just had one strung across the garden, propped up by a board with a notch to keep it from dragging.  For those had the extra work of mucking the basket across the garden with them as the pinned it out.

And then of course after all was said and done, everything, or pretty much everything had to be ironed.  Sheets, shirts, pants, towels, face cloths, even underwear! It was all ironed, I think the only thing Mom didn’t iron was socks!

The technology for washing has changed a lot over the years, and I’m sure more than I do it on other days than Monday, wonder if anyone has their line filled today?