Canadian Geography: Sable Island, Part 0

Self-tutoring about Canadian geography: the tutor begins about a famous, yet remote, part of his home province.

Sable Island, from the French sable, meaning sand, is a connected arc of sand dunes that form an island about 175 km off the coast of Nova Scotia.

The Island might have a crew of five; to my knowledge, all are staff of various government agencies. The runway is the beach.

A few hundred horses roam wild on Sable Island, protected from human interference since 1960 by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.

The Island is about 42km long, and up to 1.5km wide, but its dimensions change as the dunes shift. Miraculously, there are freshwater ponds on it whence the horses drink.

I hope to mention more about Sable Island in future posts:)



Land and Sea: Sable Island

Rick Mercer Reports

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

How rare is a four-leaf clover?

Self-tutoring about plant lore: the tutor researches four-leaf clovers.

The rarity of the four-leaf clover is around 1:10000, research suggests.

I’ve never found a four-leaf clover. However, one summer when I was a kid, one of my friends found one, I think in late May. That was when I was in grade 3, in PEI.

A week later the same kid found another. The trend continued all summer: he just kept finding them. I can’t recall anyone else ever doing so.

Some reading suggests that, because of genetics, four-leaf clovers might be found in clusters. However, that wasn’t how my friend found them; he found them anywhere. While we were awaiting other friends or wondering what to do next, he’d look down: “Another four-leaf clover!” he’d exclaim. He found one on a patch of earth almost bare of grass.

I always wondered how he did it, finding all those four-leaf clovers. I hope to find one someday. I left PEI when I was 10, and haven’t been back since. Yet, not having found a four-leaf clover there, even though I guess they were all around, leaves me to recall the wide blue skies and vast green fields and long sunny days of summer there.

My grade 8 kid just walked in. He says his friend, like mine from long ago, often found four-leaf clovers when they were in grade 3, but not really since. Curious, eh?


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Canadian Geography: two Lawrencetowns in Nova Scotia?

Tutoring social studies, the Maritimes enter the conversation. The tutor mentions a discovery he made a couple of days ago about Nova Scotia.

Recently, looking at a map of Nova Scotia, I noticed a place called Lawrencetown, perhaps about 5 miles east of Dartmouth.

“Lawrencetown’s in the Annapolis Valley,” I thought to myself. “It’s northwest of Dartmouth, maybe 50 miles as the crow flies.”

I moved the map around on the web page, and behold! Both Lawrencetowns were apparent – the one in the Annapolis Valley I knew as a kid, as well as the one east of Dartmouth.

I hadn’t known there were two.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Lifestyle: start of summer, 2017

Tutoring, you observe how people’s lifestyle and attitudes change along with the weather. The tutor reflects on the coming of summer, 2017.

To a Canadian, seasons may not begin according to the designated times on the calendar. In my January 26, 2015 post, I define the first day of spring from a Canadian point of view.

What about summer? Supposedly it starts around June 21 each year. However, from my point of view, the real start of summer is when people start behaving like it’s summer – when they start wearing summer clothes and engaging in summer activities.

By Friday, May 19, spring had clearly been here for around two months. The high that day was 16°C. However, Saturday morning, May 20, the sun was bursting through the windows. By 10am, standing on the deck outside, the feeling was summer, not spring. The high turned out to be 23°C. Sunday reached 23°C as well, Monday, 24°C.

By Monday, people were dressing and behaving in summer fashion. Adapting to summer doesn’t take long; today, the kids are heading to school in T-shirts (no jackets or hoodies) without hesitation.

From Saturday to Monday, people decided summer is here. On that observation, I’m defining the start of summer from a Canadian point of view: the first three consecutive days to top 20°C constitute the beginning of summer.

Enjoy your summer, whenever it arrives:)


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Geography: what does Annapolis mean?

Tutoring Canadian geography, you might mention the Annapolis Valley. The tutor investigates the meaning of the name Annapolis.

As a kid I spent three years in the Annapolis Valley. Typical of the Maritimes, it had beautiful summer and fall but winter was long.

There is also an Annapolis in Maryland; noticing it, I decided to find the meaning of Annapolis.

It turns out that Anna (Hebrew: Hannah) was the name of the Virgin Mary’s mother. In Greek a polis is a small, unified community having unique identity and customs. In an agricultural society, the polis would include the land its inhabitants farm.

Therefore, Annapolis might mean Anna’s Village. The name ties the village to the Virgin Mary’s mother Anna. When I lived in the Annapolis Valley, religion was prominent there:)


Stanford, Quentin H. (editor). Canadian Oxford School Atlas, 6th ed. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Canadian language: what does Kabloona mean?

The tutor shares a term he discovered in the dictionary.

Kabloona is an Inuit term referring to a non-Inuit; the term particularly suggests a white person. It has been used to describe white people present to do specific functions: police, missionaries, etc.

Kabloonamuit refers to Inuit people who emulate White ways. They generally participate in the economy as a white person would – having a job instead of being self-employed, and buying clothes and food from stores.

Having learned only recently of the terms Kabloona and Kabloonamuit, I don’t know if they’re meant for conversational use. I’m intrigued I’ve never heard of them.


Collins Essential Canadian English Dictionary & Thesaurus. Glasgow:
  HarperCollins Publishers, 2006.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbel River, BC.

Geography: Ocean currents: why Canada’s east and west coasts have such different weather

The phenomenon of the mild winter of Victoria, BC, compared to the much colder one of Halifax, NS, has a reason….

Typically, spring blooms begin in Victoria, BC, in February. I’m a Maritimer, so I can tell you that a spring bloom in late March there would be welcome, but not typical. Why does spring arrive at Halifax so much later, when Halifax is significantly further south – 44°N, versus 48°N in the case of Victoria?

The answer is simple: a warm ocean current flows to Canada’s west (Pacific) coast, while a cold one flows to Canada’s east (Atlantic) coast.

The current flowing to the Pacific side begins around the Philippines as Kiro Siwo. Reaching this side of the ocean, it becomes the North Pacific Current, bringing tropical warmth to Canada’s west coast.

To Canada’s Atlantic coast, the Labrador Current brings cold water from around Greenland and the Arctic islands. Hence, the longer, colder winters there.

I’ll be talking more about ocean currents in future posts:)


Stanford, Quentin H., editor. Canadian Oxford School Atlas, 6th ed. Toronto: Oxford
   University Press.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Geography: Manitoulin Island and Lake Manitou

The tutor brings up a geographical curiosity.

My interest has grown in lakes, rivers, ponds, etc – possibly because of the variety of plants that grow around their margins, or because of the fish that hope to thrive within them. (I’m not a fisherman, but I like seeing organisms thrive.)

The large rivers of the world, such as the Amazon, Ganges, Congo, Yellow, or Mississippi, host some surprising species that one seldom hears about. I’ll eventually discuss them in posts.

Today, I’m talking about Manitoulin Island, in Lake Huron, Ontario. One of its claims to fame is being the world’s largest island in a freshwater lake.

Equally interesting, Manitoulin Island contains the world’s largest lake-on-an-island-in-a-freshwater-lake: Lake Manitou. It’s about 100 square kilometres.

Another curiosity on Manitoulin Island is the world’s largest island-in-a-freshwater-lake-on-an-island-in-a-freshwater-lake: Treasure Island. It’s not in Lake Manitou, but rather Lake Mindemoya, which is also on Manitoulin Island. Treasure Island is about 0.6 square kilometres.

I’ll be sharing more of my geographical finds in future posts:)


Wikipedia: Manitoulin Island

Wikipedia: Lake Manitou

Wikipedia: Treasure Island

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Soils of Canada: grassland soils (chernozemic soils)

The tutor continues coverage of soils found in Canada.

In a few earlier posts (you can find them in my Canadian geography section) I covered forest soil types in Canada.

Grassland soils are not so familiar to me. I’ve spent a few weeks in grassland areas; perhaps a regret of mine is that I don’t know them better.

Not all Canadian grassland is located in the prairies; however, the prairies embody grassland.

A key feature of grassland soil is that, left alone, it continually accumulates organic material. Generally, the reason is that decomposition of plant matter is hindered – by months of cold weather, lack of water, or both.

Canadians are commonly aware of the winter months of prairie deep freeze. The prairies are quite dry as well, compared to other populated regions. Behold Regina’s precipitation, compared to cities outside the prairies:

City Precipitation (mm)
Vancouver 1113
Regina 364
Toronto 762
Halifax 1282

On the Canadian prairies, a simplified explanation of the soil development might be as follows: during the spring and summer, the grass grows quickly, manifesting tremendous production of fresh organic matter above the soil (the grass you see) and below the soil (its roots). Rather suddenly, in the fall, a killing frost hits. The dead plant material lies on the ground. In the deepening cold, it can only decompose very slowly, if at all.

With the roots, the process is less noticeable, but there is continuous decay and renewal. Below ground, the decay faces similar challenges as above.

In the spring, when the soil temperature reaches above 5°C, the cycle restarts. While the grass thrives once more, the rainfall is insufficient for complete decomposition of last year’s dead plant matter. What does decompose, releases nutrients that feed this year’s grass. The leftovers just add to the active soil layer. Therefore, the soil’s organic content increases year after year.

In the context of carbon footprint awareness, the Canadian prairies serve as a carbon reservoir; by the process described above, they effectively remove carbon from the atmosphere.

Soil description is a complex but rewarding study. I hope to write more posts about it soon:)


Stanford, Quentin H., ed. Canadian Oxford School Atlas, 6th Ed. Toronto: Oxford    University Press.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Canadian weather: When February was the coldest month

The tutor offers more reflections about his past experiences with Canadian weather.

Here on the west coast today, it’s 8°C; we’re under a rainfall warning.  Subtropical air filled with moisture is sweeping over us; it’s typical west coast winter weather.

As I mentioned in my January 26 post, I lived in the Atlantic provinces until I was sixteen. There, the winters were long and cold.

One day years ago, I was in a conversation about the weather – how different it is in the Atlantic provinces compared with the west coast. I observed, offhandedly, that I recalled February’s being the coldest month when I was a kid. It was surprising to the others in the room – probably unbelievable. Here, flowers bloom in February.

Yet, what I said had been honest. I recalled, in the fading afternoon light of February, light blue snow, piled high along driveways. The cold’s grip was unquestionable; the temperature had been sub-zero for days and days. The dusk sky’s clarity, its first stars already developing, promised another night below -20°C. By the way: more than one Maritimer has since agreed with me: February, by their reckoning, is the coldest month.

Well, they probably agreed because it’s true. In at least three places I lived as a kid, the coldest month is indeed February:

Monthly average temps
Dec Jan Feb
Halifax, NS -2.5°C -5°C -5.5°C
Kentville, NS -2.6°C -5.6°C -5.7°C
St John’s, NF -1°C -3.5°C -4°C

Winter arrives late in the Atlantic provinces. Yet, by March, it’s warming up even there.

Weather in the Atlantic provinces is complex. I’ll be talking more about it in coming posts:)


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.