Heart’s Content, Hearts Delight, Dildo Run, Leading Tickle and Seldom-Come-By are just a few wonderful Newfoundland place names. Some days we pick a destination just to see a community name we’ve heard in a story or a song. Fogo, Twillingate, Moreton’s Harbour, all around the circle has caused a couple of day trips.
Our destination this time was Little Seldom, Fogo Island, not to be confused with the neighbouring community of Seldom-Come-By, to holiday in a traditional two storey salt box style house, Penney’s Vacation Home. I’d seen this house on a Facebook page and stopped by to have a look on my recent trip with my dad. We booked it for a few days to end our lovely summer holidays in late August. What a lovely “home” base from which to explore Fogo Island.
The house will remind Maritimers of their grandmother’s homes and Newfoundlanders of Nan’s house. Well built over 100 years ago and well maintained ever since, the house is straight and proud and lovely. Joan has left “canvas” on one bedroom floor to remind visitors of how it used to be.
Spic and span, due to the handiwork of Joan Penney, a retired housekeeping and food worker from the hospital system, the house offered all the comforts of home.
Wireless Internet, cable tv, fully equipped kitchen and 3 bedrooms if you want to bring the family or friends make this a lovely place to set up for a few days or a week on Fogo Island. There’s a large fenced yard and a bbq provided. The owners just live across the road and were eager to help us with anything we might need. Leo and Max knew each other from bygone days and we very quickly felt like part of the crowd.
Because we had a few days, we were able to take our time and stuck around Seldom for part of our stay. On my last drive through, I saw lobster fisherman hauling pots in a small boat in Little Seldom. They were just metres from the road as we drove through. This time, we walked up to the community gardens for a look at this year’s crop of potatoes.
Located across the road from the lobster berths, each plot in the garden has a string or on one case, string of shoelaces, surrounding the potato beds. I wonder if a wind chime is attached to scare off caribou?
I know that some potato beds in Stag Harbour are set along the side of the road on the way to the ferry where there is soil instead of rock. I’m not sure if this garden was built by bringing in soil but for sure it has been supplemented by traditional methods like seaweed and kelp.
Wild raspberries and tall grasses grow between the gardens of hilled spuds. I read somewhere that there are over a dozen species of potatoes grown on Fogo Island, with locals keeping seed potatoes from one year to the next, preserving the heritage.
Joan laughed at my potato pictures but was pretty proud too, to see how lovely everything looks through a visitor’s eyes. We also walked up the lane in the other direction and found a point of land facing Seldom-Come-By on one side and with a rocky beach on the other. Burnt Point, I thought but a reader corrected me and explained that I was actually looking toward Burnt Point when looking toward Seldom-Come-By.
Burnt Point was the location of the original lighthouse and the automated one now. As I write this, I realize exactly what you mean Damian R. Thanks for the correction. We’ve driven down to the lighthouse a number of times.
Whether I knew where I was or not at the time it was beautiful. Lengths of firewood drying for next year’s winter.
In addition to the Vacation Home, the Penney’s also rent two newly build efficiency units on the same property. Self contained with a kitchenette these are great for singles or couples but also have a cot or pull out bed if needed. A new construction a couple of years ago, these are also very busy so don’t hesitate to call to inquire about a reservation. (Phone Joan at 709-627-3358)
Big Seldom, or properly named Seldom-Come-By is a larger fishing community just over the hill. Home of the Fogo Island Co-operative Society Shrimp processing plant and to many crab boats, this beautiful harbour earned the community’s name. Legend says that vessels seldom came by without visit stopping in the sheltered harbour.
This community is also home of one of many amazing heritage properties on Fogo Island. The Marine Interpretation Centre is the former Fisherman’s Union Trading Centre store and it’s outbuildings include the boilers used to render cod liver oil. The fumes from the cod liver oil factory have the wood very well preserved and the smell brings back memories from those who were treated with the wonder drug. Some good, some causing visible face wrinkling. Traditional fishing methods are explained and artifacts are labeled and displayed.
The store itself is used as display for tools and documents such as lighthouse logs and financial ledgers. This is a ledger from the lighthouse when it was manned on Burnt Point in Little Seldom.
I’ve toured the FU Trading Co. numerous times as a teacher with my students. The manager’s office or merchant’s office in these properties was up over the store where he could survey the staff and clientele at all times.
The merchant, and then the Fisherman’s Union, held all the power and all the money in the fishing economy. Families were given credit to get food and other goods from the store. Fishermen worked for the company and at the end of a season, their wages went towards their bills. On a bad year, the wage didn’t cover the bill, on a good year, the merchants gave store credit instead of cash so the cycle continued.
The merchant’s office was accessed by a wide staircase in the middle of the shop floor where someone coming to ask for work or credit was seen by all in the store. Reminds me very much of the layout of our current day HRDC offices where individuals looking for work or support for school have to sit outside a locked door until they are worthy to be seen inside, but I digress.
Inside his office, the manager sat on a desk that was on a raised platform, so that, even seated, he was ‘higher’ than the worker before him. The cash box was raised and lowered on a string as staff was not trusted to handle money.
An addition to the museum since my last visit was a beautiful cedar chest, given as a gift from a local man to his girlfriend and future wife. How generous of their family to share it with the public.
All museums on Fogo Island have admission by donation but this location has one money making venture besides a souvenir and craft shop. With a great dock, the Marine Centre welcomes pleasure boats of all descriptions. For a minimal docking fee, visitors have access to electricity, water, showers, laundry facilities and wireless internet. 40 boats have moored here this season! Who wouldn’t want to stay in Seldom-Come-By? I guess it’s still a hard place to pass without stopping.
We didn’t visit the art exhibit in the church in Seldom this time around but it is a lovely display of works by Therèse Frère, a French artist who has visited often. The church is open during the day but the hours are not posted so it took us several trips before we caught it open last year. Prints and books are available for purchase and the church itself is very unique and worth a stop.
Of course, we couldn’t spend days on Fogo Island without visiting the Fogo Island Inn again. On Monday we enjoyed a great lunch and warm welcome from the staff. It was very busy and with the summer holidays ending, some summer staff was preparing to go back to school. Tour guides were finishing up and one staff member was flying out west to visit her family before starting school and so excited to have bought the ticket herself.
To justify calories contained in a dinner at the Inn again, we did a bit of exploration in Tilting and did part (a very small part) of the Turpin Trail to see the Squish Studio that I have been virtually admiring for a while. One of several artist retreats, this is my favorite studio so far. It just ‘fits’ the place.
Tilting retains pride and tradition in it’s Irish heritage, right down to the potato gardens. In addition to the famous Keefe’s stage, photographed and painted from all angles in all styles, there are other great views and vistas.
We took a drive and walk in Oliver’s Cove to see the beautifully fenced gardens. This is where my buddy Paddy grows his pradies.
A trip to Adam Young’s studio was premeditated with my promise to purchase one of his recent works, Pitcher Plants. I’ve been a fan for a long time and tempted several times, teasing him with “I need to sleep on it” messages but when I saw this painting, I knew it was the one I wanted. Adam is very prolific and uses a variety of techniques and pallets.
We had our ‘landlords’ Joan and Max join us for drinks at the Fogo Island Inn when we went for supper on Tuesday night. Max got comfortable while Joan and I had a quick tour around the Inn. Although afraid of heights, she couldn’t help but stop for a minute and look out from the viewing area on the fourth floor, near the hot tubs. Homeowners on Fogo Island have all been invited to spend a complimentary night, with dinner and breakfast at the Inn. Joan had no trouble picking the date she wanted once she and Max checked the place out.
We excused ourselves from the Penney’s and moved on to the dining room while we waited for a friend to join us. In our visiting and dining, the pictures got forgotten but the meal was once again amazing.
A scallop appetizer with blue cheese and local greens, cassoulet and pork trio were the other mains we tried. Due to the hour, we passed on dessert rather than keeping the staff lingering.
Chef Murray McDonald welcomed us like old friends (it has been a couple months since we met) and told us it had been a record night in the newly opened dining room. A record, I’m sure he’s broken since as the popularity continues to grow.
We certainly weren’t hungry as we strolled out of the Inn to find a spyglass set up to view the blue moon on Aug. 20,2013.
We managed to catch the church fisherman’s brewis dinner before leaving Fogo Island. A kitchen full of aproned ladies and the church pews were lined off with pies for dessert. Delicious in it’s own way and a great place to visit or listen to the conversations going around the tables.
Late posting, after all this trip was a month ago, we are already counting down to the Partridge Berry Festival and our return stay at the Fogo Island Inn. A chef’s weekend promoted as Seven Courses for Seven Seasons, I can only imagine how amazing Thanksgiving will be this year.
I’m sure it will be delicious and as pretty as an Adam Young picture.