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Latest Articles
In the November 2014 issue of Downhome, Shannon Duff and Dennis Flynn speak to the fine folks behind some of Newfoundland and Labrador's longest running businesses. Here they share the stories of two more experienced retailers.

Got ’er Knocked at Nic Naks
Lorraine Welsh, proprietor of Nic Naks store in Green’s Harbour, Trinity Bay, says with a smile, “The building is approximately 100 years old and the original owner was a Mr. Harry Green. He was a general merchant and you could find everything you needed to run the fishery or a home here. Mr. Green went teaching for a year or so after he finished school, but decided he wanted to be in business for himself so he returned home and opened his store. It flourished and at one point he had over 200 people ‘on his books’ (an old-fashioned way of saying customers) and it would take him two full days just to deliver groceries around the area. He stayed open for around 60 years and my mother actually worked here for over 20 years helping in the shop.”

The next owner, Bill Green, operated a grocery store in this building for another 20 years after that. When he retired, the building was vacant for about a year when Lorraine entered a rent to own arrangement with him and she’s been in business for almost 18 years now. Her shop is filled with quite the assortment of goods, from beautiful replica dories, ships in glass bottles and knit goods to a large assortment of quilts that share shelf space with eclectic antiques (including vintage stereoscope viewers).

“I love it,” she says. “It is mostly seasonal, but I have been here since the ‘year of the tow out’ (a local expression for the 1997 move of the Hibernia Gravity Base Structure from the construction site at Bull Arm to the offshore oil fields) and the people are wonderful. I have a niche specializing in the high quality local craft industry and we see people from all over the world. I have had folks from Egypt, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and everywhere really. We have even had a few famous visitors including Shaun Majumder (of “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” and “Majumder Manor”) and he was really nice.” – Dennis Flynn

Generations of Grocers
Many of the smaller markets from our grandparents’ days are long gone, but there are a few that have held their own and weathered the storm in this ever-changing globalized, digital marketplace with its big box stores. One of those mainstays is the family-owned Coleman’s Group of Companies, owned today by Frank Coleman, a third-generation Coleman businessman. Coleman’s is now the largest, fully integrated, independent wholesale/retail food operation in Atlantic Canada. Its beginnings were much humbler.

Arthur James Coleman and his wife Maggie first opened for business in 1934 in a former school house in Corner Brook. It was a family operation in every sense. As soon as the Coleman children were old enough they were put to work in the store, as were subsequent Coleman descendants. “It was always a business where you had to work hard, specifically in the food business because it was so demanding every day,” Frank told Downhome in a past interview. “My brothers and cousins and I did a little bit of everything.”

OverImage the years, the Coleman’s enterprise has really branched out with 12 food stores, four furniture stores and two clothing stores operating from Port aux Basques to St. John’s. Frank says the company has a unique relationship with its customers and it’s one of the reasons they keep coming back. “It’s people that we work with and people that we serve that have a shared group of customs and expectations, and we treat them that way, and I think they feel that way when they come into our business. It’s a very unique place that we occupy in the minds of the consumer, and it’s a place that we work very hard to maintain.” With a fourth generation employed in the company, it’s likely Coleman’s will remain a hallmark of the food industry in this province. – Shannon Duff
When Tanya Northcott goes on vacation to Newfoundland and Labrador, so does her camera. Really, it’s an adventure for her camera, which doesn’t see much action back home in Ottawa, Ontario.

“My camera is not really used anywhere else but when I’m in Newfoundland,” Tanya admits. “When I’m in Ottawa it just sits on the shelf. I’m working on changing this, as there are many beautiful places in and around Ottawa, too, but it just doesn’t inspire me the way Newfoundland does.”

Tanya was born on the mainland and was introduced to Newfoundland and Labrador by her adoptive parents, who raised her there.

“I’m a descendant of Ojibway ancestry. My birth family once lived on the Wabigoon Lake Reserve, which is South of Dryden, Ontario. I was adopted by a wonderful Newfoundland couple who were living in Thunder Bay at the time, but after living there for a few years they decided to move back to Newfoundland and that’s where I grew up,” she explains. “I’m very happy to have grown up in Newfoundland; it’s a beautiful place with very friendly people.”

Her first experience with photography was during a vacation to the southern United States and Mexico in the 1980s, when she was gifted an Olympus camera to record her experience. “During this trip I was really inspired by the beauty of the ocean and landscapes,” Tanya says.

These days, Tanya captures scenes using her Nikon D-90 with its AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm lens. She also uses a Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lens and an AF-S Nikkor 55-300mm zoom lens. While her camera gear has changed over the years, what she trains it on has not. She is still is irresistibly drawn to the sea and landscapes.

“My favourite subject to shoot would be Newfoundland outports and landscapes simply because it’s so beautiful: the ocean, beaches, cliffs, wildlife, wharfs, boats and colourful houses…the only thing I need to do is to capture good composition and good lighting – the natural beauty of the land does the rest.”

She makes it sound simple, but to get the right composition sometimes means clamouring over cliffs or crawling beneath wharfs. And that great lighting? Well one could be waiting for hours or even days – sometimes even returning in a different season – for the best light. But it’s all worth it, as Tanya and every other photographer will tell you, when you get that perfect shot, that image that inspires you and others every time you see it.

Click here to view a slideshow of images taken by Tanya.
Adventure Canada, an expedition cruise line that’s been bringing passengers to Newfoundland and Labrador for two decades, has perfected many aspects of the cruise experience. One is the wake-up call.

No, it’s not a monotone voice on the other end of the phone gently nudging you from your cabin. At least on the morning this Downhome editor was aboard the Sea Adventurer, it’s the booming voice of the captain over the PA, announcing to passengers that the ship is sailing past a pod of orcas. I’ve never witnessed so many people (myself included) so eager to rise from slumber at 6 a.m. Sure enough, reaching the top deck I could just make out the black dorsal fins in the distance.

Downhome, as well as other media and tourism industry staff, was invited aboard the Sea Adventurer in late June for a special one-night sailing from St. John’s, Newfoundland to St. Pierre, France, in celebration of the company’s 20th year bringing cruise tourists to the province.

Others along for the ride include Newfoundland author Kevin Major, local storyteller Dave Paddon and a host of other famous faces from home. But this isn’t their first (and won’t be their last) Adventure Canada cruise. They are members of the company’s stellar resource team – typically locals with some area of expertise – who sail with cruise passengers to add that extra ounce of local knowledge and charm.

“For our guests it makes it very real. It’s not just the tour guide spiel,” Adventure Canada vice president Cedar Swan, a B.C. native now living in Ontario, tells me as we sail. “They’re actually getting the perspective of somebody that lives there, the pros and cons and the real-life situations, and I think that’s what people have come to know us for is for providing that type of insight.”

Food & fun
Throughout the journey I keep thinking that as we all filed onto the ship we must have looked like hungry souls, for they keep feeding us – and feeding us and feeding us. From hors d’oeuvres aplenty and a gigantic barbecue buffet on deck to a gourmet meal in the dining room, it’s a wonder the ship didn’t sink like a stone with all of us on it. (Still, I would have made off with the entire dessert buffet if I thought I could have done so without creating a scene.)

Canada’s literary queen, Margaret Atwood (another fixture on Adventure Canada’s resource team), is also on this trip. Shortly after we’re out to sea, the three wordsmiths – Paddon, Major and Atwood – go head to head in a game of “Nautical Bluff” in the ship’s lounge, which leaves everyone in stitches.

Late into the evening we’re treated to musical performances from talented members of the ship’s crew (which includes a saxophone-playing horse – seriously, I couldn’t make this up if I tried) as well as Juno-nominated Tom Barlow.

In the morning, as if on cue, humpbacks greet the ship upon our entrance into St. Pierre Harbour (perhaps the 6 a.m. orcas notified them of our impending arrival).

Canada, and especially our little corner of it, is indeed an adventure – one that’s best appreciated from the water. Next time I’m planning a cruise vacation, I might just consider sticking a little closer to home. – Ashley Colombe

Click here to view a slideshow of photos from the cruise.
There’s an interesting symmetry to Gerry Farrell’s life. In his first career, as x-ray technician, he spent his days studying images and looking at the human body in a different way than most of us do. His work inspired a new hobby, photography, which allowed him to capture images of other areas of life, often with a new perspective. And not surprisingly, he preferred to shoot in black and white.

Gerry’s photography passion continued as he transitioned from black and white to colour, and, fairly recently, from film to digital equipment. He also changed careers, graduating from Memorial University with a degree in medicine in 1974. After placements in Grand Bank, N.L. (not far from his hometown of Marystown) and Pictou, N.S., he’s currently a palliative care physician in New Glasgow, N.S.

As a photographer, Gerry says, “I am early morning person and like to take advantage of the ‘golden hour’ of sunlight, either at sunrise or sunset.” The tools he relies on to capture the best images include his Canon 5D Mark 3. “I use a variety of lenses, but my most frequently used is a Canon 24-105 f4 series. I enjoy wide angle shots and use a 17-40 lens for same,” he says.

Something more significant than good equipment that Gerry credits for his quality of photography was a special experience he had a few years ago.

“About five years ago, I spent a week with world-renowned photographer Freeman Patterson, and his inspiration made me a much improved photographer,” he says.

Gerry most enjoys shooting landscapes and, particularly, water features.

“Waterfalls have been an enduring subject for me, and I have visited many of the ones in Nova Scotia, and just returned from a photography adventure in Iceland, where there are waterfalls around every bend,” he says.

He and his wife (also a Newfoundlander, from Brig Bay on the Northern Peninsula) return to the island on a regular basis, where Gerry finds inspiration along the seashore. One of his favourite images was taken during one of those trips home.

“One image of sea urchin shells on the rocks along with seaweed at the Arches on the Northern Peninsula was made in the pouring rain two years ago. I wanted to make an image as a wedding gift for a friend. It included two shells and I titled it ‘Nestled,’” says Gerry.

“I always enjoy going to Newfoundland and Labrador, and walking along the seashore and photographing things I find there. Also, the fog in the early morning light creates a wonderful mood and makes one appreciate all the beauty around us.”

Click here to view a slideshow of photos taken by Gerry.

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From the Archives
Recently, Linda Browne sat down to chat with Newfoundland icons Sandy Morris and Greg Malone of the legendary Wonderful Grand Band. To learn more about the WGB's upcoming shows, the band's early years and how they really felt about wearing pantyhose, check out the August issue of Downhome, on stands now.

To hear more, have a look at the following video clips.

Click here to enter to win a copy of the band's first self-titled album on CD.

Greg Malone and Sandy Morris discuss why it's great to be part of the WGB.

The guys share a bit of news about the band's upcoming projects.

Malone and Morris chat about the rerelease of their first self-titled album on CD, recorded at Clode Sound Studio in Stephenville in 1978.

By Ross Traverse

Recently I received the following letter from reader Dave Potts. His predicament is not exactly unusual for property owners on the windswept terrain of Newfoundland. He writes:

Dear Ross; My wife and I own a five-acre parcel with a small home at Cape Ray, Newfoundland – the last house before the lighthouse. I think the local folk refer to the area as the barrens or something like that. There is not a tree on the property. There is about 18 inches of moss/topsoil above good ol’ Newfoundland rock. I am looking for advice as to the type of trees that I should plant. I have in mind tamarack, spruce and, although I do not see them growing locally, white pine. I am looking for some advice and was wondering if there are trees available through the government forestry service.

Dave, I am familiar with the area and your unique natural landscape. One of the main reasons why there are no native trees is because of the wind and poor soil. You also need a seed source from other trees in order for them to get established naturally. Trees and shrubs can be transplanted, but there are limitations with your type of landscape. I don’t think you will be able to find suitable plant material at a nursery. You need to transplant native trees and shrubs that are growing in exposed areas nearby.

The timing for transplanting is critical. You have about two weeks in the spring – as soon as the ground thaws out and before new growth starts. I don’t recommend fall transplanting in this situation. When choosing a plant, remember that the smaller the tree or shrub, the easier it is to transplant and get established. You don’t gain anything by planting large trees in windy areas because they may not take root. Smaller trees will start to grow faster after transplanting and you will have a much stronger tree. For example, a 12- or 18-inch white spruce is a better choice than one that is three or four feet tall. It is a good idea to select the trees and shrubs for transplanting from an area that is exposed to the wind and where they are not crowded together.

The technique for transplanting from the wild involves digging around the tree while at the same time pulling it up, to get as much root as possible. The roots of the tree or shrub should be immediately covered with plastic to keep it from drying out. The exposed roots should not be allowed to dry out even for an hour or so. Also, the organic material that accumulates underneath trees in the forest contains organisms that help trees get established and grow. So it’s a good idea to collect some of this and mix it with the soil when you transplant the tree on your property.

Do not use fertilizer when transplanting. However, a small sprinkle of lime mixed with the soil would help. Make sure that the soil is packed tightly around the roots to eliminate air pockets. If you did well and chose a small tree, it won’t need any special supports after transplanting. After planting, mulch the ground to prevent any plant growth around the base that would compete with the tree for moisture and nutrients. And if the tree happens to be dry, it should be watered when planted and again every few days for a month or so. No pruning is necessary the first year except for broken branches or branches that are growing in the wrong direction.

There are several species of trees that I would recommend for windy areas. The native white spruce, Picea glacua, is well adapted to the wind and provides shelter in the wintertime. As you mentioned, the tamarack, Larix laricina (or juniper, as we call them in Newfoundland) is another good choice. The native alder, Alnus crispa, can be trimmed to make a hedge. I do not recommend pine because it is not well adapted to wind and salt spray.

In general, I would recommend maintaining a natural landscape with its unique characteristics. The old-fashioned picket fence made with small round spruce could provide some shelter and blend in with the landscape. A fence made with driftwood would be another choice. The plants that are now naturally growing in the barrens should be preserved as much as possible. Pathways made with gravel or wood can provide easy access. Good luck with your project.

Got a gardening question for Ross? Email him at

Holding a garage sale is a great way to recycle, de-clutter, and make some extra cash while you're doing it. But what good is a garage sale if frustrated shoppers can't find the items they're looking for, they have nothing to carry their purchases away in or - worse yet - nobody shows up? We've compiled tips that will help you hold a successful garage sale, from planning to clean-up.

Prepare in advance
• Choose the garage sale date carefully. Try to ensure your sale won't be competing with a community event that many people will be attending, or a long weekend, when many folks head out of town.
• Collect bags and boxes so shoppers have something to carry their purchases in, and save old newspapers, which you can use to wrap fragile items.
• Ask your neighbours, friends or relatives if they would like to contribute to your sale. Extra "stuff" will bring extra shoppers. Decide in advance how you will split the profits.
• Clean everything. That means washing clothing, stuffed toys, and cleaning and dusting electronics, dishes, furniture, etc. Cleanliness will encourage shoppers to buy.
• Check out other garage sales in your area to determine what certain items typically sell for.
• Have a contingency plan in case of inclement weather. If it's raining, can you move the sale inside your garage? Under tarps?

Advertise your sale
• Place an ad in your community newspaper and inquire about advertising in church bulletins. Include the sale date, start and end times, your address and highlight any especially attractive items you'll be selling. For instance, are you selling furniture? Antiques? Collectibles? Is this a moving sale? Are several households contributing their wares? All of these factors entice potential buyers to stop by.
• If you don't want shoppers dropping by early (even hours before the sale is due to start), specify "No Early Birds" on your ads/signs.
• Advertise your sale online. The folks at Craigslist advise individuals posting a garage sale ad on that site to provide clear directions as well as a link to a map showing your address. Don't use @#%$$ excessively - such symbols annoy users. Take good, clear photos of any hot-ticket items you're selling and upload them to your ad and write an honest description. If the items are well worn but still very useable, say so.
• Place eye-catching signs with large print and few words in convenience stores, grocery stores, libraries and anywhere it's permitted.
• On sale day, place large signs with bold print at the nearest intersection, closest busy street and at the entrance to your street. And, of course, place a large "Garage Sale" sign in front of your house, plus balloons and streamers to attract drivers just passing by.

Organize your wares
• Shoppers know they aren't heading into a department store setting, but a little organization can go a long way. For starters, group similar items together (electronics on one table, toys on another, books on another, etc.). Place clothing on hangers and hang on a fence or string a rope between two trees and voila! Instant clothes rack.
• Place small items, like dinkies, balls, tiny plastic toys, etc. into a 25¢ box. Children, especially, will love to pick through the new and exciting finds - and satisfied kids mean Mom and Dad can stick around and shop longer.

Sale day
• Be approachable and friendly. Don't ignore your customers by chatting on the phone or reading a book during the sale.
• Don't go it alone. Garage sales can get extremely busy, so you'll need at least two people available to work at all times. One person should be solely responsibly for handling cash and making change, while at least one other should be available to answer questions.
• Hold onto the money! Never let the cash box out of your sight, lest it be stolen. Remove large bills throughout the day.
• Lock all doors to your home. Thieves could enter easily while you're busy counting change.
• Be prepared for haggling. Don't be intimidated into selling an antique dresser for $5. Be firm, but polite.
• Have easy access to an outlet and extension cord. Shoppers will most likely ask to test appliances and electronics.
• Keep a measuring tape on hand so shoppers can measure furniture if need be.
• Halfway through the sale, put out a sign that says "Everything 1/2 Price." This should get things moving faster.
• At the end of the sale, put items you really want to be rid of in boxes marked "Free" and give them away.

After the sale
• Remove all signs that you've posted at businesses, on street corners, etc.
• Donate to charity. Many charities will send a truck to retrieve the items leftover from your sale. Contact charities in your area at least a month in advance to ensure they can pick up soon after your sale.

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