The Cove Artwork by JoDee Samuelson

Our ancient soil

The Cove Journal | by JoDee Samuelson

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The wind howls and here in the Cove we ask each other, have we had this much wind before? The answer is: Probably. We just can’t remember. It’s cold other places too. With a wind chill of minus 50, Calgary is having its coldest stretch of weather since 1998. Montreal expects another 30–40 cm of snow on Wednesday. Vancouver is blanketed in snow and my friend Karren is worried about her hummingbirds. In other words, friends, we’d better not look elsewhere for sympathy.

It’s a good time to stay indoors and read. My favorite new book from Acorn Press is John Calder’s Island at the Centre of the World. The author calls this his “love letter in a bottle, thrown into the ocean in the hope that you, the reader, will find it.” Well, we’ve found it and we’re thrilled! Thanks for all the photos of fossils on PEI—more than I thought—and for asking the question: “Where would you go to see fossils of Prince Edward Island’s past, in absence of a Natural History Museum?” The answer: the Vet College.

Thanks also for reminding us that even though the Island may not possess oil or coal, or diamonds or gold, we have valuable crop-friendly rock-free SOIL. The Oxford Dictionary defines soil as: “The upper layer of earth in which plants grow… a mixture of organic remains, clay, and rock particles.” Calder’s book recounts how our own particular mix of clay and rock particles is the end product of Permian sandstones being ground and eroded over millions of years, then tossed about and ground up some more.

Soil is a valuable product. When we go down to the Cove and walk under the capes we see how thin our topsoil actually is. In his book, Calder quotes geologist Sir William Dawson pronouncing back in 1871: “The great wealth of Prince Edward Island consists in its fertile soil, and the preservation of this in a productive state is an object of imperative importance.” Hmm. Preservation of our fertile soil. I think about this because every three years the big field above us is planted in potatoes. It’s a hillside, but mostly it’s not so steep that it couldn’t be planted cross-wise—at least at the bottom. At this time of year, every rainfall washes tons of fine sandy soil off the empty field and out to sea; and when the wind comes up, snowbanks are painted pink with soil blown off the bare ground.

What would happen if our fields were seen as goldmines, and every soil particle as a fleck of gold? Erosion would be a thing of the past!

So thanks, John Calder, Kathy Kaulbach (designer), and Laurie Brinklow (editor) for illuminating the unique story of our landscape; for identifying rock formations that indicate an ancient riverbed; for telling us about sacred Iron Rock on Hog Island. What an amazing place we live in! I’m ready to lay my books aside, put on my gardening duds and start digging in our valuable ancient soil.

Jodee SamuelsonThe Cove Journal
JoDee Samuelson

Born and raised in the Canadian prairies, JoDee now lives in “the Cove” on the Island’s beautiful South Shore. She was a maker of animated films for most of her working life, and presently putters at less demanding artistic ventures like carving owls, painting Island scenes on small woodblocks, and playing ukelele.