Blog Archives

Preparing the Seal Skin

The tradition of making sealskin boots has been around since seals inhabited the waters along the Strait of Belle Isle. For generations those who came before us participated in the hunt and the several week process of bark-tanning the skin to turn into a product.

Each summer, these laced in seal skins are commonplace at the Steven’s homestead. I am quite pleased to see this tradition continue. My father knew this process and the techniques used to soak, stretch and tan. I still have a pair of his sealskin boots, in which I wear in winter. I too would like to learn the seal skin boot making process.

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There is a book about seal skin boot making on the Great Northern Peninsula. It is entitled out of necessity. It is available at GNP Craft Producers in Shoal Cove East (www.gnpcrafts.ca).

Sabrina Lisa Fashion Design also believes in environmentally sustainable and all natural products. The sealskin wallet depicted below is one I use every day. It does not contain dyes, chemicals and was handmade.

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We should keep our traditions of the Great Northern Peninsula alive. More people should learn the process and also support entrepreneurs, craftspeople and the rural economy. We have a wealth of talented people and experiences.

Live Rural NL

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North

A Billion+ Reasons to Visit the Town of Flower’s Cove

The Town of Flower’s Cove on the Great Northern Peninsula, is formerly known as French Island Harbour, as it too is steeped in French history and part of the French Shore. Flower’s Cove as it is known today, is the administrative hub of the Straits region with a regional hospital, regional K-12 school, regional community youth centre, community-based daycare centre, non-profit 33 bed personal care facility, retail co-operative, pharmacy, restaurant, B&B, gas station, retail outlets,  construction companies, RCMP detachment, banking & financial services, tax services, recreation opportunities, churches, Lion’s club, seniors, youth groups and other organizational clubs.

The Town of Flower’s Cove, working in consultation with the now defunct Nordic Regional Economic Development Board (due to Federal & Provincial budget cuts) had worked on helping Flower’s Cove grow its tourism assets by adding two informational pull-offs that promote the Town’s business community and tourism attractions, as well as a mural and good signage throughout the community. Many of which are depicted below in key chains that are available for sale at the L&E Restaurant:

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Flower’s Cove was the home base of Rev’d Canon John Thomas Richards, who was an Anglican minister in the early 1900’s. He operated without a church, but by encourage the women of the community to establish a building fund by making and selling sealskin boots. St. Barnabas Church was built circa 1920 and is known locally as “Sealskin Boot” Church.

Flower’s Island Lighthouse, first lighthouse keeper was Peter Flower, shortly thereafter it was operated by the Lavallee family for decades until automation. The Straits Development Association has developed an interpretation and viewing area, as well as continues to pursue opportunities to develop the area into a working site to add to the Town’s tourism assets. Icebergs are often spotted in the harbour, so have your cameras ready!

Marjorie Burke’s Bridge has been restored and leads to 600 million to 1.2 billion year old thrombolites. These micro-organisms form a clotted bun-like structure that area  special find, only in a few places around the world. The calcium carbonate from the limestone rocks create an environment for these unique formations.

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The White Rocks Walking Trail is an easy stroll that gives nice views of limestone plains, forested and water areas at a pace for the walker of any age. There are certainly great photo opportunities and resting areas as well. A perfect place for a picnic.

Flower’s Cove may be a tiny town, but there is plenty to see, do and experience! A billion+ reasons to visit on a trek up the Great Northern Peninsula.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North

 

BUY LOCAL – GNP Seal skin craft shop has new product

Sealing has been a necessity on the Great Northern Peninsula. It is still practiced today and with it continues traditional seal skin boot making. The Great Northern Peninsula Craft Producers in Shoal Cove East has added more modern garment items to appeal to today’s fashion, while continuing to produce traditional bark tanned sealskin boots.

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During my last visit, I was greatly impressed by the creativity displayed by the inventor of these boot sleeves, which attaches to a woman’s long boot, giving it wide appeal. This product is made for easy cleaning, flexibility to use fur or not, as well as replace the boot when the bottom wears, giving the owner greater return on investment. These boot sleeves are custom-made and retail for $200 + applicable shipping and taxes.

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They will likely be one of the most wanted items for Christmas this season. You can pre-order by calling +1 (709) 456-2123 or visit www.gnpcraft.com.

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I purchased seal skin bow tie ($24 + HST), which I look forward to wearing at functions and work in the near future. This makes a great conversation piece at a dinner or evening event. People may want to place orders for wedding parties. They also make the wide and skinny neck ties.

This local not-for-profit is keeping tradition alive, modernizing its product line and also creating much-needed local employment in the region. They strive to make seal product more affordable to the everyday person. Supporting local business is key to building a stronger and more vibrant local rural economy.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North

Seals on the Ice

Last Sunday, I had left my home to drive to grandmother’s house in Nameless Cove for a big turkey dinner on Easter Sunday. Driving through the community, I saw a black spot on the ice.

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The seal is at the edge of the beach.

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Another seal is close to shore, as pack ice had blocked the Strait of Belle Isle. The land in the background, well that’s “The Big Land” – Labrador. I’m not sure people believe me when I saw, “I can see Labrador from my window,” but it is true.  Just a short 15 kilometres between us and still no plan to connect us by a fixed-link. Advancing transportation and telecommunication networks will be key to Southern Labrador and the Great Northern Peninsula‘s future long-term sustainability. Quebec is completing Route 138 (Lower North Shore Highway), this means Montreal will be just 13 hours drive from this province. It will transform the shipping of goods and services. The current administration promised a feasibility study – a link has not yet materialized. Instead it has opted to build a multi-billion dollar energy project, laying cables on the ocean floor that will interfere with our way of life, the fishery – our mainstay, versus going underground with a tunnel. It was noted in a pre-feasibility study that if both projects were paired, savings of nearly $400 million would be realized. More work is needed exploring a fixed-link, but advancing transportation networks is imminent, we can not continue to be plagued with annual increased rates at Marine Atlantic and an unreliable schedule for shipment of goods and services. These costs are ultimately passed on to the consumer.  We need to be more strategic and consider where we need to go over the long-term, but not forget our roots – our beginnings.

Seals played a critical role in the development of our as a permanent settlement. In the early 1800’s they were a major food source, as the island had only 9 types of mammalia. Additionally, as a British Colony, we shipped both whale and seal oil to the homeland. This oil was used in lamps and correlated with the Industrial Revolution. Today, this product is banned in the United Kingdom.

It will be another couple of days before the sealers take to the ice. I wish much success in this years hunt, as the seal provides valuable meat, oils and pelts that are harvested in a humane and sustainable way. Sealing is part of our tradition, and will continue to remain that way well into the future.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North

Giving the Gift of something Handmade cannot be Beat

As we celebrate the season of giving, I still believe the best presents are not the ones that can be bought on-line or at some retail outlet but those gifts without price tags attached – but the gifts one makes by hand.

How wonderful are the holidays when grandma comes with a deliciously handmade apple pie, just ready to put in the oven? How often do we look forward to Aunt’s fruitcake, cousin’s cookies or a friend’s cinnamon rolls? There are those that always make an ornament or holiday wreath. We have knitters and quilters that do it their way, knit and sew stitches with ultimate care. We all have those crafty friends and family members that take the time out to show they care. These types of presents are the gifts that simply can not be replaced.

I’d like to share with you some of the handmade items, I received this year for Christmas:

1.Hooked Rug: It is certainly not every day someone will give you a hooked rug. It takes many hours of time and dedication to end up with a finished product. I remember making my first and only hooked rug to date in Winter 2011. It took 50 hours to complete. Hooked rugs represent a time of economic development, especially for women, as Dr. Wilfred Grenfell encouraged women to make hooked rugs to help supplement family incomes. They still sell Grenfell rugs at the Grenfell Centre in St. Anthony today. I love this rug and everything it represents as it depicts a shrimp at sea – the lifeblood for many communities of the Straits-White Bay North. Without such fishing activity and processing our region would face much difficulty. It now hangs in my bedroom near the window, which boasts a view of the water. I can not thank the giver enough for what it means to be presented with such a gift!  Please do keep up your efforts, as this hooked rug inspires me to push harder for the fishers and those who make their living from the sea.

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2. Knitted Socks: My grandmother had included in her present a pair of knitted socks. I love them – a pair of knitted socks is to be coveted. I’ve already placed one on my feet when I attended the 3rd Annual Mummer’s Walk.  The other foot had a striped knitted sock done by my Aunt Christina. These socks like others will find a home when I wear my seal skin boots or want to ensure my feet remain nice and cozy. These have been a tradition of Newfoundland & Labrador for centuries.

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3. Sealskin Business Card HolderA traditional-bark tanned sealskin has been designed to hold my braille business cards. I will use it proudly. We have such a history on the Great Northern Peninsula when it comes to sealing. For instance, St. Barnabas Church, Flower’s Cove is known locally as “sealskin boot church” because the building fund was provided by sales of women making and selling sealskin boots. This product will go nicely with my bark-tan wallet. Thank you SabrinaLisa for another incredible gift.

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4. Handmade QuiltMy 81-year-old grandmother has given me a beautiful handmade quilt for Christmas that she made herself this year. She has always made lots of quilts throughout the years, but never one to call my own. Christmas 2012 is very special to have the gift of a handmade quilt from Nan. I’m not sure how many more she’ll make, but I hope she continues the tradition. I’m quite pleased to see at least a couple of her daughters have picked up the skill, keeping quilt-making in the family alive and well.

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Traditions, culture and local knowledge should be passed on. I hope my liveruralnl.com blog continues to help document some of the many traditions, culture, heritage, history, landscapes and people of the Great Northern Peninsula.

Happy Holidays & New Year to All –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North

 

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