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The Coady & Tompkins Memorial Library sneaks up on you as your eyes are pulled in all directions by the stunning vistas of the Margarees: rolling mountains, pastoral valleys, rushing rivers, and winding roads. There is a reason why those who can make a go of it here on Cape Breton Island are fiercely proud to call this place home. As families new and old to this landscape can attest, it takes more than a nice view to make a place home. With such a rural population, access to community resources is an ongoing challenge; a challenge that the library in Margaree Forks has met with open arms.
When you walk in the door, it is immediately apparent that this is more than a place to source books. Besides the comfy couch, the inviting play area, and the curiosity piquing displays of books, there is an over arching theme. Food.
Kim Tilsley is the Library Assistant in Charge. She is also a farmer, and her passion for food permeates her work at the library. The wall behind the front desk is adorned with a stunning, tear-jerking story quilt made by Kim’s mother, Bea Tilsley-Cummingham. It is titled Imagine the Possibilities – Kimberly’s Dream. The quilt’s blocks depict a vision of a library oasis, complete with a rainbow of vegetables, garden creatures, a cob oven, and of course, books.
Near the entrance, there is a large display board, depicting the progress of their Margaree Cooks! Project. The plan is to build a community run cob oven on the library land (owned and managed by the Margaree Area Development Association). Kim and Library Assistant, Susie Paddon, have been attending workshops on a rebuild project of the Park Avenue Community Oven in Dartmouth. “There is nothing like hands-on learning to really understand something. And we certainly got our hands dirty during the oven workshops!” said Kim. Construction is scheduled to begin this summer. Donations to support the oven project are being gratefully accepted at the library.
As you make your way back through the library, there is a newly hatched batch of chicks in a brooder box, along with information displays on chick development, and chick care. The children that visit the library cannot tear themselves away! At the back of the library there is an area set up with grow lights, where a table full of seedlings have been started for the library garden outside.
The library’s community garden is called Paul’s Garden, in honour of local gardener Paul Chiasson. His memorial fund allowed for the start-up of the garden. This was the pilot garden for the Living Library Project, an initiative of the Eastern County Regional Library. There are now six ECRL branch libraries with gardens on site, including Petit de Grat, Mulgrave, Canso, Guysborough, Sherbrooke, and of course, Margaree Forks. Others without the land base are doing some container gardening. Activities in the garden were linked to their children’s summer learning programming through their “How Does Your Garden Grow?” curriculum.
Last year, the gardening season wrapped up with a harvest potluck. Offerings cooked up from the library garden included a cornbread made from Painted Mountain Milling Corn (seed purchased through Hope Seed). They dried and milled it themselves, before baking up the recipe below.
Besides vegetables, Kim is working on gradually incorporating fruit bushes into the garden plots, as well as the landscaped beds at the entrance. As we say our good-byes, Kim points out some little cherry bushes tucked in amidst the tulips. They are just starting to bud. This is indeed a living library, and it is a true gift to the Margaree community.
1 c. cornmeal
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 t. baking powder
½ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
3 T. oil
¼ c. honey
1 c. buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 425⁰F.
- In a large bowl combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- In a large measuring cup combine oil, honey, buttermilk and egg.
- Add wet ingredients to dry, stir until just combined. Pour batter into a greased 8” square pan.
- Bake for about 20 minutes or until top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Jody Nelson is the Community Food Coordinator for Cape Breton with the Our Food Project of the Ecology Action Centre.
Adventures in Local Food is your source for food news in Nova Scotia, from pickles to policy. It is a project organized by the Ecology Action Centre
Learn more about our program at https://www.ecologyaction.ca/ ourfood
Or follow us on Twitter: @OurFoodProject
Facebook: The Ecology Action Centre
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