Day 54 – July 30 – Tatamagouche, NS to Summerside, PEI

After two days of driving and scenery we made up for it by visiting three museums today. Two of them were close to the B & B we stayed in at Tatamagouche last night and the other was about 60 km down the road from our hotel in Summerside tonight.

First was the Balmoral Grist Mill. It was begun in 1874 and still grinds grain today.

Back in the mill’s heyday it would have been run with a huge waterwheel, today it is done with an electric motor. The three levels of the mill were full of hoppers, grinding wheels, conveyors, chutes, gears and belts.

The mill could grind all the grains; corn, wheat, oats, buckwheat, etc. We were shown all the stages of the process and after looking around all three floors, Caleb, the miller, poured a bag of grain into a hopper and started it up to make flour.

He would stick the board in the little slot at the base of the grinding wheel and let some of the flour fall on it, pull it our and check the consistency to see if it had been ground the way he wanted it.

The flour made at the mill is bagged in 5-lb bags and available for purchase. It was very intersting to see.

Not too far away was the Sutherland Steam Mill; begun in 1894 by Alexander Robert Sutherland. It was a lumber mill with a woodworking shop upstairs. Nine men worked in the sawmill. The local men would bring in their log loads and tell Mr. Sutherland what lengths and thickness of boards they wanted and he would cut all of each order in turn so the men always got back their own wood.

He had a portable mill first where the parking lot now is and it burned down, so when he build the new mill he had barrels installed on the roof with water pumped up to them and it would drip down over the roof and keep the wood moist so there would be no risk of a fire destroying the mill again.

The slat cutter. He installed it on a slant so that the big board would slide down again for a second cut to make the narrow slats like the one leaning on the machine in the center front. Slats like this are used in lobster traps, snow fences, holding insulation in place around the base of the house in winter, lathe and plaster walls,and many other things. They made bundles and bundles of them and were always in demand.

This was a three-side planer and molder that was used to make all kinds of trims and moldings like the many types shown in the photo below.

Upstains was the woodworking shop. If it could be made from wood it could be made here.

Gingerbread trim was very popular in the area and this shop made many variations of the intricate trim.

Mr. Sutherland was a genius at machinery innovation, recycling, and woodwork design, but he was not so good at collecting bills. This is the wagon his wife used to make the rounds and receive payments.

It took just over an hour to tour each of the mills so it was about 12;30 before we were officially on the road. As we drove through Pugwash an hour or so later, we saw the huge Windsor Salt mine.

Pugwash is the only salt mine, and currently, the only underground mine in Nova Scotia. Josh Allen accidentally discovered salt in 1953 when drilling for water at his lobster factory. The Canadian Salt Company Ltd. hoisted the first load in November, 1959. Shafts go down to one thousand feet to huge working corridors (30’ x 55’). The company employs approximately 210 people. The processing plant at the site produces industrial grades of salt. The refining process for this industrial salt is one of crushing, screening and sizing. The mine produces approximately 1,200,000 tonnes of salt per year. The mine’s lifespan is estimated in excess of 100 years, possibly longer with advanced technology. 

We crossed the border into New Brunswick and immediately headed east to go over the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island.

Opened on May 31, 1997, the 12.9-kilometre (8.0 mi) bridge is Canada’s longest bridge and the world’s longest bridge over ice-covered water.  Most of the curved bridge is 40 metres (131 ft) above water with a 60 m (197 ft) navigation span for ship traffic. The speed limit is 80 kmh and it takes just over 10 minutes to drive across. It cost $1.3 billion to build. It is a toll bridge but you pay the toll going westbound back to the mainland. As of January 2022 it is $50.25 per car or two-axle truck.

A photo of the rearview mirror gives you a bit of an idea of how long this bridge is.

We headed north once we crossed the bridge and drove for an hour and a quarter to the town of O’Leary where the Canadian Potato Museum is located.

This was hard to get a photo of that made sense. It is a potato slicer. Potatoes are not grown from seed, rather a plant develops from a sprout that grows out of an eye on the tuber. Any small piece of potato contaning an eye is capable of sprouting into a new plant. The machine above was an early potato cutter, which was a lot less time consuming than having to cut them all by hand.

There were three walls of historical information about potatoes and how they spread around the world. They were originally from in South America.

There are over 260 known virus, bacteria and fungi that affect potatoes, not to mention insects and pests. There was a wall of small coffins with potatoes inside showing several of the different effects of bugs and blights, etc.

We concluded our tour of the Potato Museum a few minutes before they closed at 5:30 and then drove 45 minutes back to Summerside and our hotel for the night. There is a huge motorcycle rally going on so there were closed roads and bikes everywhere.

John has been finding it quite difficult to find accommodation the last week or so. Everything is full or is $280-$350 per night. He saw an Air BnB listing for $124 per night to sleep in a tent that had two beds in it! We planned to drive around the Gaspe but we may have to nix that and head on a more direct route back to Quebec/Ontario. We shall see what pans out.

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