|Hall's Harbour Observatory, Hall's Harbour, NS|
Denman Diary: 2010
|26-Sep-2021 18:22 ADT||26-Sep-2021 21:22 UTC|
This week's story, aside from the obvious one of Christmas, was the weather. We had a three-day Pineapple Express blow in, the second one this month. Once again, our weather was coming straight from Hawaii, with warm temperatures and lots of moisture. Our rainfall total for the three days was 154 mm, over 6 inches.
We went into Courtenay on Monday evening for a vegan dine-out with some of our Denman Island friends. The vegan dine-outs are held every couple of months. The organizers take over a restaurant for the evening and, for a fixed fee, produce a set menu that is 100% vegan. It introduces people to different restaurants and often introduces the the restaurants to the concept of veganism. The food this time was a buffet and both it and company were excellent.
Though there was some slushy snow and rain while we were in Courtenay, the weather was not too bad. We knew that the big storm was still to come later in the week, and we were glad not to have had to go back into town later. We saw pictures of some major flooding in Courtenay. The part of the town that is in the estuary of the Courtenay River lies very close to sea level. At this time of year, the tides on the full moon are exceptionally high, and there is one park that often has water over some of the grass at high tide in December. Well, combine the full moon solstice tides with Pineapple Express rainfall and an onshore wind, and you have a recipe for serious flooding. According to the pictures, the entire park was under deep water, and surrounding businesses were sandbagging to keep the water out of their premises.
The local ski hill, Mount Washington, is about 3000 feet up in the mountains, and so all the precipitation fell there as snow. As of the end of this week, it had the most snow of any ski hill in the world. In fact, the staff were complaining that there was so much snow they had to dig the chair lifts out. The snow pack at mid-mountain was reportedly nearly five metres.
Here on Denman, there is some localized flooding, but nothing serious. Our property is on a well-drained hillside, so we have no standing water. Our neighbours across the street are not so lucky. They have a small pond with a bench beside it that in summer is a pleasant place to sit. A couple of days ago, the bench was surrounded by a greatly-expanded pond. In fact, the day after the second photo was taken, the water had risen high enough to float the bench right off the ground. When last seen, it was sailing off towards the northwest.
The Pineapple weather system included a couple of days of very high winds. Our storm winds invariably come from the southeast. After our experience with the big storm of 2006, any time the wind blows hard, people on Denman get nervous. Wendy and I get out all our flashlights and leave then in strategic places around the house. I have been known to wear a headlamp around my neck just to ensure that it is accessible in the event of a power failure. The biggest cause of power failures, of course, is trees falling down on wires. However, most of the unstable trees must have come down in 2006, because storms since then have not brought many more down.
We only had one power failure this week. Even more surprisingly, BC Hydro had it fixed in little more than an hour. We are not sure if it was coincidence or good planning, but they had a work crew already on the island. It was a good thing, because apparently the ferry shut down for at least part of the storm.
The fire department got called to another power line down, this time late in the evening, after all the work crews had left. There is nothing we can do about a line down, since we have to assume that it is still live. We set up a barricade on the road, fully aware that people wanting to get in or out of the area were going to drive around the barricade and over the wires. All we can do is make sure they know that is what they are doing. Hydro came out to fix it the next day.
This being the "holiday season", there are more visitors and tourists on the island than is normal in winter. (The distinction between visitors and tourists is that visitors are staying with people they know; tourists are strangers.) As we started out on a walk yesterday, we were passed by these apparent vistors. No one who lives here would be dressed in spandex, nor be running down the road pushing a high-tech racing pram. On the other hand, neither would most tourists.
We were stopped later on the same walk by some people who definitely were tourists. They wanted to know where the government dock was. We had to chuckle, and informed them that Denman Island was in fact the only inhabited island in the known universe without a dock. That may change in the next couple of years, but strictly as a result of local efforts, not the government. The tourists, back of the vehicle crammed with fishing gear, seemed disappointed.
On Friday, we were treated to a concert by the Foothills Brass, a quintet based in Calgary. Attendance for this concert was down, probably due to its being scheduled for a weekday afternoon. Still the turnout was reasonable, and we were glad we went, because the music was good. We both enjoy listening to brass ensembles. As is to be expected at this time of year, the program consisted mostly of Christmas tunes.
Friday evening was "Moonlight Madness" night, the one evening of the year when Denman shops are open for late shopping. The downtown sidewalks were decoratively illuminated by rows of tea-light candles in paper bags. The effect was quite pretty, but didn't last long, as the candles are of lower quality this year and burned out rather quickly. Unfortunately, the event was poorly attended, since it was competing with the Seniors' Association annual Christmas dinner and dance.
We went out for supper, having vegan chili at the Café and candy cane brownies at the Bistro. We had some mulled wine at one of the real estate offices, and browsed the merchandise in the various stores. Moonlight Madness is really more of a social event than a shopping extravaganza, but we did our part for the local economy and bought some artwork. We had fun visiting with the various proprieters and other customers.
On Saturday evening, we were invited to a Christmas soirée at the house of some friends. Their house looks like something out of a fairy tale, and inside was decorated for the season with literally hundreds of wooden soldier nutcrackers.
This evening the Community Christmas Dinner was held at the hall. This event started years ago as a way to brighten the season of some of the island's homeless and destitute people. However, rather than single them out, it quickly developed in an egalitarian spirit to include everyone on the island. The hot food is provided by donation, and cooked and served by volunteers. Salads and desserts are pot-luck. Literally everyone attends, and both the main hall and the back hall are packed for two sittings.
Since this is the last Denman Diary before Christmas, I would like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas.
This week's story was the weather. On Tuesday, a classic Pineapple Express system rolled in. In a Pineapple Express, a low pressure in the Gulf of Alaska teams up with a high pressure off Baja California to pull warm, moist subtropical air from Hawaii right over the Pacific Northwest.
The temperature started rising on Monday as the warm air arrived, followed by the rain on Monday evening. It rained continuously and heavily for the whole of Tuesday, midnight to midnight, with the temperature staying steady at 8 degrees, before tapering off to showers on Wednesday. The total rainfall for the system was 88 mm, 73 of it falling on Tuesday alone.
The systems driving the Pineapple Express stayed in place, and we were expecting another one this weekend, but most of the moisture stayed to the south this time.
Of course, all wetlands on the island are now full to overflowing. Pickles Marsh is up to within six inches of the bottom of the bridge. When it gets that high, it drains across the roadway at a low spot beyond the bridge. On Tuesday, of course, it was raining too hard for Wendy to consider doing her regular walk around the block. By Wednesday, with the rain having lightened up a bit, the water was still too high across the road for pedestrian traffic. By Thursday, when this picture was taken, the water was still flowing across the road, but it had gone down enough that one could get through with wet shoes.
We still see our regular deer hanging around the house. This fellow is a couple of years old. Two years ago, his first winter, he was scrawny and small, with a mangey coat - probably a late-season fawn. We were not at all sure that he would survive the winter, which was a long, cold one. We ended up feeding him and two other youngsters who were hanging around the house. We have been watching the three of them ever since - the "three amigos", we call them.
The thin, scrawny fawn of two years ago has filled out nicely, and is now a healthy young adult. The other male deer of his year all have antlers, small as befits young deer, but respectable. This poor fellow, though, just couldn't quite manage a normal set of antlers. One of them broke off last month, but this was as big as they got. We think he probably gets good cell phone reception with that thing!
On Saturday evening, we attended the annual Fire Department Christmas Dinner. It is a large event. With firefighters, auxilliary members, juniors, friends of the department, and spouses, there were over 60 people in attendance. It was a fine evening, with a large meal, speeches, and awards both serious and humourous.
There was considerable competition for the driving award, and the recipient had to be decided by secret ballot. Entries consisted of pulling out of the truck bay with several compartment doors open, with consequences to both the compartment doors and the bay door; getting an ambulance stuck in mud, requiring extrication by the fire department; and having the brakes on the fire truck catch fire. It was a close contest: the brakes catching fire won by one vote. Fortunately, I was not in the running for that award.
My project this week has been making a shelf above the kitchen stove. There was an old metal range hood there which was ugly, hard to clean, and didn't really serve any useful purpose. The shelf looks a lot better and will be more practical. I still have to do a bit of wiring to connect the under-shelf light.
While out walking "around the block" this week, Wendy and I discovered that someone had recently dumped a truckload of garden debris and assorted garbage on the conservation land to the north of us. Illegal dumping has been a problem in the area for a while, though with improved signage and some publicity, it had slowed down in recent months. This time, the garbage included identifiable plant tags, so it might be possible to identify the culprit. If you grow "Molineux" and "Mme. Hardy" roses, you or someone you employed may be an irresponsible litterbug. No doubt, laziness and a desire to pocket the ferry fare and tipping fees motivated this crime, though composting the stuff at home would have accomplished the same thing less antisocially while producing a beneficial byproduct.
The area where the stuff was dumped is an important recovering clearcut that is the only Canadian habitat of the critically endangered Taylor's Checkerspot butterfly.
On a lighter note, this was the weekend of the annual Christmas Craft Fair. It is known as the biggest and best seasonal craft fair in the area, and it draws a lot of people from Vancouver Island. The weather was ideal for it: sunny and bright on Saturday, cloudy but pleasant on Sunday. As a result, both halls were crowded. The crafts, as usual, were of the highest quality.
In addition to the craft boothss, there are several booths for island charities to present information about themselves. There are only a limited number of charity booths, and participating organizations are chosen by lottery. This year, two of the organizations of which I am a board member were chosen to have booths, so I had the honour to represent them both. On Saturday, I did a two-hour shift for the Conservancy Association and, today, another two-hour shift for the Hermitage, our local Buddhist retreat centre. In both cases, they were good opportunities to explain the organizations to residents and visitors.
In between manning the information booths, Wendy and I wandered around admiring the crafts. Though we tried to resist the temptation, it just wasn't possible. We bought a very nice folding cedar patio table, and two miniature watercolours. The table will be perfect on our new deck or, when we have guests, out on the cottage deck.
The big event of the past week was the weather.
As I reported last week, the weather had turned cold and snowy. On Monday, however, a low pressure centre suddenly developed right over us. The arctic air over the mainland produced outflow winds at the mouths of all the inlets strong enough to reach right across Georgia Strait and blast areas on eastern Vancouver Island.
Denman Island was one of those areas. We got the blast of the wind coming from Jervis Inlet and, as it hit our hills and the Beaufort Mountains behind us, it dumped snow on us at a very rapid rate. In about two and a half hours, we got eight centimetres of snow.
Up and down the east coast of Vancouver Island, the snow was very patchy because of the outflow winds. Courtenay, for example, didn't get any snow at all.
The snow played havoc with the roads. I was about to head out to a 10:00 am meeting, when suddenly it began to snow heavily. I turned around and phoned my client to cancel the meeting. It turned out to be a smart move.
It looked (correctly, as it turned out) like it was going to be a heavy snowfall, so I parked the car at the top of the driveway, by the road. The first order of business on a snowy day is to put tire chains on the fire trucks. I walked to the firehall, where I found myself just in time for a work party. With the trucks chained up, I came home and installed chains on the car.
With heavy snow covering the roads, you would think that people would at least stay off a 13% (i.e. really, really steep) hill. At least half a dozen vehicles got stuck on the hill, including a tow truck. Once the snow stopped falling, I walked out to the top of the hill to see the mayhem. My timing was perfect. Just as I got there with the camera, this big Hydro truck got its front wheels caught in a snowbank and spun around sideways. Probably just as well, seeing as the road down the hill was blocked with stranded vehicles. The truck never would have made it down the hill in one piece. They ended up using the winch on a smaller truck to haul the big truck off the road.
With the snow, came colder temperatures. The lowest I recorded was -8.4°C, which was not a record, but was cold enough.
Cold enough that the pipe from our well to the pumphouse froze on Monday night. It is supposed to be underground, but it comes to the surface in two places. I had an interesting breakfast hour setting up portable heaters and light bulbs to thaw the pipe. (I had to ruummage a bit to find an incandescent bulb. Compact fluorescent bulbs won't thaw anything. They are just too darned efficient.) Fortunately, after a few hours with heat, the water started flowing again, and the pipes were not damaged.
On Thursday, we were supposed to get a "Pineapple Express" system. The forecasters were calling for the temperature to rise dramatically. I was a bit skeptical, as the cold air had nowhere to go. The temperature did rise, but slowly. What was predicted to fall as rain came as more snow.
The temperature did eventually get warm enough, and the snow started melting. On Saturday, I was finally able to get the car down the driveway. With any luck, the rest of the snow will be gone in a daw or two.
Not everyone found the snow annoying. Apparently, this snowman thought the weather was just fine for a stroll down the road.
It had to happen sooner or later. Winter finally arrived on Denman Island, just as forecast. On Friday night, the temperature dipped below zero for the first time since April. The rain started to look a bit crunchy but was still rain when Wendy and I started watching a rented movie in the evening.
By the time the film was over, everything outside was white. The nylon netting suspended over the cats' outdoor enclosure to discourage raptors was covered in snow and ice and was stretched down nearly to the ground by the weight. I spent the better part of an hour sweeping it clear with a broom to prevent it from ripping.
Earlier in the week, as the forecast for cold weather started to look more believable, I drained a bit of water out of each of the rainwater tanks to minimize the chance of frost damage to the pipes.
We located all our gloves, mitts, scarves and hats and now have them ready for use.
On Friday evening, before the snow started, I parked the car at the top of the driveway, as the forecast was calling for 5-10 cm of the stuff. Our driveway has a steep hill and becomes impassable when there are more than a few centimetres of snow on it. Any time significant snow is forecast, I park up at the top, next to the road, to ensure that we are able to get out. As it turned out, we barely got 5 cm of snow, and the car is now back down by the house.
The roads stayed clear where they were under trees, or were plowed first thing in the morning. That was good news, because any time there is snow on the roads, the fire trucks have to have chains installed. And, since that would require an early morning drive to the firehall on unplowed roads, I would have had to to install chains on the car. Luckily, none of that was required this time.
Next week's weather is looking like we will get a Pineapple Express by the end of the week. Not only should that wash away all the snow with rain, but the temperatures will take a big jump. Our rose will be happy to hear that. It seems to like flowering at this time of year. Right now, it has one bud just about open and seveal more ready to pop. A little warmer weather will make for a spectacular November display.
Besides the weather, the other big event was this afternoon's concert at the community hall. It featured Yuri Zaidenberg on violin and Eugene Skovorodnikov on piano, playing works by Mozart, Alfred Schnittke, Brahms and Schumann, with one encore by Tchaikovsky and another that was not identified. The concert was brilliant!
This season's emphasis on classical music in the Concerts Denman series is being well-received by music lovers on the island. The hall was packed, as it was last time.
November is the rainiest month here on Denman Island, and this November is turning out to be quite average in that respect. The rain isn't continuous. Typically, we will get a couple of days of rain, of which a few hours might be heavy, and then a day or two of sun, or at least lighter skies.
Although the air temperature has not yet gone below zero - our lowest overnight low so far has been 3 degrees - we have had some surface frosts, and I have had to scrape the car windshield once or twice.
The bigleaf maples lost all their leaves weeks ago, but other deciduous trees are only now starting to lose theirs. Poplars and alders are sttarting to drop their leaves now. Although the poplars turn yellow, the alder leaves remain green until they fall.
With all the moisture, this is a good time of year for mushroom pickers. We leave mushrooms alone because we would have no idea what we were doing, but we have seen plenty people out in the woods picking chanterelles and other types. There are all shapes and sizes of them on practically every surface.
Last winter, Wendy spent an hour a week looking for trumpeter swans for the local naturalists. (She didn't find any.) This year, she will be doing the same again, but this time she has been assigned a different marsh, one that doesn't require driving up to the far end of the island. It is close enough to walk to in nice weather, so today, we walked there to survey access trails and viewing locations. It looks like she will be able to view most of the marsh without bushwhacking or trespassing too much on private property. Since nobody knows why the swans didn't show up last year, no one knows whether they will be around this winter.
This hasn't been a terribly exciting week.
The most significant event was that on Monday I picked Wendy up at the airport when she returned from visiting her parents in Nova Scotia. The cats were almost as happy as I was to have her back again. Though Owen was content to sit on my lap when Wendy was away, now it's back to "Dad who?"
We have had a significant amount of rain this week: 47 mm on Monday morning, and 22 mm last night, along with various sprinkles on other days. They were a good test of my gutter work, which I am happy to report held up perfectly.
I have started surveying for an upcoming project: building a greenhouse under the new deck. The location is not quite as crazy as it sounds. The east side of the house, where the deck is, gets the most winter sun of any side, most of it at a low angle that can easily shine under the overhang of the deck for much of the morning. The design we are looking at will have a glazed "bump-out" four feet beyond the deck itself, so there will be ample room for a potting bench that will get sun right up until noon. Being up against the house means that it will have a source of heat. In fact, it will be right next to the room with the wood stove, so the supply of heat will be generous. We planned the deck with the greenhouse in mind, so there is already a weatherproof roof over it.
On Thursday, we spent the day in Nanaimo. (I told you it wasn't an exciting week.) While on our way to an appointment, I spotted the unmistakable shape of a doberman. Naturally, we had to stop and visit with him. In spite of the impression left by television and movies, dobermans are usually among the friendliest dogs there are. This one came bounding over to meet us as before we were even out of the car, all waggy-tailed and ready to be patted. There was no question in his mind that we were there specifically to see him, which we were. We spent a few minutes patting him and talking to his human before we had to be on our way.
I would have taken a photo of Wendy with the dobie except that I didn't have the camera. I'm not yet used to the idea that I'm carrying a cellphone, nor the idea that you can take pictures with a phone.
This week, my priority has been getting the gutters installed on the deck roof. As I indicated last week, I rented scaffolding from the hardware store. A friend in the fire department helped my by transporting it in his truck and helping with the assembly and tear-down.
I was afraid the job might take a couple of days, but it turned out that errecting the scaffolding was the hardest part of the job. Once it was up, installing the gutters was quick and easy.
That is, until I got to the far corner of the roof. The ground there drops away, and a big tree stump blocks the way. There was no way to move the scaffolding close enough to to that end of the deck to finish the job. Since the gutter sections are ten feet long, I was able to get the final piece in place just by reaching it from the last stable position of the scaffolding. However, there was no way to secure it in place with the necessary clips, or to caulk the seam where it joined the corner piece.
However, when Richard returned with his truck to help tear down the scaffolding and return it, he suggested I borrow his 32 foot extension ladder. The ladder allowed me to get right to the corner, installing the support clips and caulking the corner seam.
It took a couple of days to finish the job, since the caulking has to be done when the gutters are dry and forecast to remain dry for several hours. Of course, the first attempt leaked, and I had to wait until another dry period to try again. However, yesterday, I finally got the seams leakproof, and they held up in a subsequent rain.
Part of the project included plumbing the downspout into one of our rainwater collection tanks. That too is now completed.
On Friday, the fire department was called out to a chimney fire. The number one rule of chimney fires is that it is considered a structure fire until proven otherwise. In this case, unfortunately, it was not proven otherwise - the fire had already spread into the structure of the building. It was a difficult fire to fight, and we were at the scene for eight hours, using more than 30,000 gallons of water. Fortunately, the occupants were all able to get out of the house, and the fire department rescued the cat from an upstairs room. The building was less fortunate.
I managed to get a bruised rib from slipping on the front steps as I exited the building. Ouch! After that, I spent most of the call operating the pumper.
This morning, as I was fixing my breakfast, there was the most gorgeous glow shining into the house from outside. I went outside and snapped this picture of the sunrise on the clouds.
Tomorrow, I have to go to the airport and pick up Wendy who is returning from visiting her parents in Nova Scotia. It will be good to have her home again!
My main activity this week has been coughing and blowing my nose. Though my Auto Extrication training last weekend was well worth the time, I picked up a cold there and have been dealing with it all week. I haven't exactly been feeling chipper, so I don't have much in the way of projects to write about.
A scorching-hot habañero pepper chili last night seems to have put the run to the cold (it cleared the sinuses, anyway!), and I was able to accomplish a bit today. With the rainy season upon us, it is time to put up the gutters on the roof of the covered deck. The short sides are accessible from the deck, so I was able to put those up without too much difficulty. The long side, however projects out beyond the deck, and is about 18 feet above ground. Not only is it too high to safely work from a ladder, but there is no solid wall against which to lean one.
So, tomorrow, I will rent scaffolding from the local hardware store. (Yes, they have everything.) A friend with a truck is going to help me transport it. With a bit of luck, I should have the gutter up before the next rain storm.
The downspout will be directed into one of our rainwater storage tanks. There is no point in having a new roof and not taking advantage of it.
Speaking of rain, we had a major rain storm overnight. 25 mm of rain was enough to raise the level in the well by five metres. It is not quite up to its winter level yet, but it is just about there.
While I was under the weather and not feeling like tackling physical labour, my new webcam arrived in the mail. If you ever looked at the old one, you will have noticed that it was a piece of junk. Not only did I want to improve the quality, but I wanted to have more flexibility in positioning it. Because the cable to the computer severely limited my choice of views, I decided to get a wireless webcam. I set it up in one of our outbuildings, where it has a view of the house. It also has a view of the sky, a big improvement for my weather page. And, because it is pointing north, it no longer has to endure having the sun in its eyes at midday.
I have been doing a bit of work in the music room. I have re-installed my music software on the old computer out there, and finished making all the wiring connections. I really depended on the computer for storing my repertoire and as a practice aid. So now, with everything functoning again, I was able to do some serious dulcimer practice. One of the local musicians has been bugging me to get practicing, so he will be glad to hear this.
The cats are adjusting to being without Wendy. Liesl won't let me approach her, but Owen has figured out that my lap works just as well as Wendy's. It is a bit difficult to type with a kitty draped over one arm, but I manage. They will both be happy when she gets back in just over a week. I will too!
Wendy is away in Nova Scotia for the next couple of weeks visiting her parents. I took her to the airport on Thursday for the two day flight to Halifax. You can't get from Comox to Halifax on the same day. You either take an overnight red-eye flight, or you stop overnight in Winnipeg, which is what she did.
My main activity this week was attending an Automobile Extrication course on the weekend with several other members from our Fire Department. It was a big class, with 60 attendees from a lot of different Vancouver Island fire departments. We started with a few hours of classroom presentations on Friday night. The whole of Saturday and Sunday was devoted to learning and practicing the various ways of removing a car from its occupants. The department that put on the course is well-qualified to do so, since they look after rescue operations on a bad stretch of the main highway on Vancouver Island.
With the way tourists drive across Denman Island on their way to Hornby in the summer, it is only a matter of time before we have to deal with a serious vehicle crash. We now have nine members who have taken the course recently, in addition to the old veterans who competed and placed well in "Auto-Ex" competitions ten years or so ago. I was particularly glad to take the course, since the chances are good that I will be the Incident Commander on any motor vehicle callout that we get, due to living so close to the firehall and often being the first on the scene.
We spent the first morning learning about the various tools that are used in extrications, both powered and hand tools. They had quite a few "jaws of life"-type tools, including cutters, squishers, and spreaders, as well as combination tools that do all three functions.
We practiced using each of the tools on various derelict cars that they had available on their training grounds. In addition to learning how the tools operate and what they are used for, we learned different techniques for accessing the interior of a car to extract an injured patient. If the doors don't open, we can pry them off with the "jaws"; we can cut open a new "door" for accessing the rear seat of a two-door car; we can remove the entire side of a car; we can fold the roof open or remove it entirely. In the case of a vehicle that is lying upside down, we can tunnel through the trunk, rear seat, and rear window to pull patients out the rear of the car. We learned about the parts you can't cut, such as undeployed airbags that can go "boom" or reinforced structures made of exotic metals that can't be cut.
We also learned about protecting the patients while all this destruction is happening around them. For the last two exercises on Sunday, we had real live human volunteers inside the cars. All of a sudden, patient protection became more than just theoretical! Instead of ripping the car apart in five minutes, the rescues were taking 20 or 30 minutes.
The car in the third picture looked a lot more like a car before we started with it. You can imagine, however, how much easier it is to extract an injured patient through the large opening in the side than it would be to pull him through a window opening for example.
It was an intense course, both mentally and physically, which is why Denman Diary is a day late this week. Still, it was excellent training. The teachers are former firefighters who now teach Auto Ex as a full time occupation, so they really knew their stuff.
The warm, dry Indian Summer weather of last week was replaced on Friday by wet, rainy, windy weather. The jet stream was bringing in moisture from the general area of Hawaii, known as a "Pineapple Express", so although it was quite soggy, the temperature was fairly warm.
Today, however, it was sunny and calm, a perfect fall day.
On Saturday, I opened the diversion valves on the rainwater collection system, to stop collecting rain. The tanks are now full enough for the winter. I don't want to have them totally full to the top over the winter, in order to allow some room for freezing. We have 4100 gallons on hand, out of a total capacity of 4500 gallons.
This week, we joined the twentieth century. Yes, I know it is now the twenty-first century, but it's the twentieth that we've caught up to. We actually bought a pair of cellphones. We don't plan to make ourselves available 24 hours a day, and you won't likely see us walking down the street (or, perish the thought, driving) with cellphones to our ears. However, we have often encountered situations in town where having one would have made life much easier, especially since pay phones are now hard to find.
For example, we usually split up on shopping days to take best advantage of our time in town. Typically Wendy will get the groceries while I go to the bank and Home Depot or other errands. If one of us were to get delayed and unable to make the rendezvous, being able to communicate would certainly help. I spent Saturday morning getting the phones set up and learning how to operate them.
On Friday night, we went to see the Agatha Christie play "The Mousetrap". It is the longest-running play in theatre history, having run continuously in London for over 50 years. Worldwide, only one other production of the play is permitted per year, and this year it was Courtenay's turn to get the licence. One of the interesting features of the play is that audience members are sworn to secrecy about who "done it". Until just the last couple of months, the details of the ending had never been published. Wikipedia published the identity of the murderer in August, but we scrupulously avoided looking at it.
However, we were glad that the information is available online, because we never got to see the end of the play, thanks to the necessity of doing a "Denman exit". The "Denman exit" is one of the facts of life of living here. This phenomenon occurs at entertainment events such as plays or concerts that are held in Courtenay. Regardless of the progress of the performance, at 10:30 pm, all the Denman Island residents in the audience get up and leave in order to catch the 11:00 ferry home, the last ferry of the evening. Missing the ferry would be a very expensive option.
Before buying our tickets, we called not once but twice, to find out what time the performance ended. Both times, we were assured that it finished at 10:00. We wouldn't have bought tickets otherwise. It wasn't until we were in the theatre, looking at the program, that we found out that it finished after 10:30. So, at the intermission, we seat-surfed to a vacant pair of aisle seats. All through the second half, I was glancing at my watch. Finally, just as the detective was assembling all the suspects to wrap up the case, we were forced to get up and leave. We had to drive through the peak of the rain storm, but we made it to the ferry in enough time to get home.
Tonight, as is our custom, we celebrated Thanksgiving by having some friends over for dinner. And, as is also customary, it was a fine meal with far too much food, and good conversation.
We have had a nice spell of Indian Summer this week, after the wet and stormy weather of the previous week. The temperatures have been in the mid to upper teens, with quite a bit of sunshine.
The bigleaf maples had gotten a head start on fall colours due to the summer drought. Now, however, everything is starting to change colour legitimately. The bigleaf maple, in spite of being a close relative of the sugar maple of eastern Canada, does not put on much of a show. The yellow one up the hill in the first photo is about as colourful as these trees ever get.
On our walk today, we took a stroll along the driveway of the Hermitage, our local Buddhist meditation centre. The first thousand feet of their driveway is lined with an assortment of various exotic oaks and maples. I can't tell you what species of maple this is, but it is one of the more colourful trees on Denman Island.
Speaking of colour, did you notice how green the grass is in the first photo? With last month's rain, the grass is suddenly lush and green again. In fact, I was thinking I might have to bring out the lawn mower one more time. Green grass in the fall is just such a strange concept for someone who grew up in Alberta!
With the nice weather, it has been perfect for gardening. I made a couple of trips to the beach to bring back buckets of seaweed for the garden. This being the time of year for planting bulbs, I planted several rows of garlic, mulched generously with seaweed and straw. I used more of the seaweed to feed the asparagus and rhubarb, and put them to bed for the winter under a blanket of straw.
We have still been harvesting raspberries this week. The canes took a break in September and now seem determined to make up for lost time with their second crop. It looks like they will keep producing until they are killed by frost. I harvested the plums that remained on the trees after last week's storm. Only one of them was ripe enough for straight-off-the-tree eating, but they are close enough to being ripe that they will be good stewed.
I will have to do some pruning soon. When the grapes ripened a few weeks ago, the local racoons found that they could get into the garden over top of the fence by using tree limbs and grape vines as elevated walkways. I will have to put a stop to that. There isn't much left in the garden for them to eat, but they have been doing a lot of digging, and leaving "souvenirs" in the grass.
Speaking of animal droppings, on Tuesday, Wendy came across a big pile of bear scat beside the road just down the hill from us. There was no doubt about what it was, and it fit with the rumours we had heard of a bear on the island, feeding on fruit. We have confirmed the sighting with the wildlife committee - it is not just a rumour. The latest word is that someone might have taken a shot at the bear - it is reported to be injured.
In other fall-related activities, Herman the chimney sweep came and gave the chimney its annual cleaning and inspection. It is getting cool enough that a small fire takes the chill off the house in the evenings.
Our woodshed is full, ready for winter. It holds 9 cords, which is enough for about two winters. Keeping a two-year supply of wood is prudent for a couple of reasons. Having extra in the shed means that the wood has been drying for at least two years by the time we burn it, meaning that it burns better, with less risk of chimney fires. Also, in a cold winter, we might burn more than an average quantity. Having extra on hand means we will not be scrambling to locate a supply during a time of high demand.
We might just need some of that extra wood this year. They say that this year's "la Niña" is the strongest since the mid 1950s, meaning a cold snowy winter for the Pacific Northwest. We can always hope that they are wrong.
To begin this week, we celebrated my birthday by taking part in the annual beach cleanup. Because we have a reputation of being walkers (lowercase "w"), we were assigned a section of beach where the walking is difficult, at the south end of the island. It is quite a pretty section of beach, but the surface is all cobblestones. As a result of the poor walking conditions, it had apparently not been cleaned in previous years. Along a kilometre of beach, we picked up enough junk to fill the back of the car.
It was mostly garbage from the shellfish industry - plastic baskets, nets and a few thousand pieces of blue string. Some of the junk came from an onshore garbage dump just above the high tide line. We duly reported it, but being on the shore, it was out of our jurisdiction. However, it made a major contribution to our haul, as a lot of junk had been washed or blown down onto the beach.
I forgot to get a photo of our collection before we disposed of it at the recycling centre, but I did get a great shot of this great blue heron.
On Wednesday, we attended the first concert of the new Concerts Denman season. This year's artistic director is a retired concert violinist, and the season has a more classical emphasis than in previous years. This week's concert featured the Jacques Thibaud Trio, none of whose members are named Jacques Thibaud. They played pieces by Françaix, Beethoven and Mozart. For an encore, they were joined by pianist Catherine Ordronneau, wife of the trio's violinist Kai Gleusteen, for a movement from a Schumann piano quartet.
We had been wondering how well a straight classical concert would go over, since previous concert seasons have been light on classical music. However, we were pleasantly surprised to see that is was one of the best-attended concerts we have been to. The audience may be more sophisticated than previous artistic directors realized, too - they knew when to applaud and when not to. It was an excellent concert, and it looks to be a great season.
This week marked the official beginning of Fall. Just to prove the point, we had our first fall storm on Friday. We thought that a stormy night would be the perfect time to watch a video ("Grand Hotel", a classic with Greta Garbo). It was, until the power went out. It was an ugly failure, with the lights flashing to double brightness several times before the power went off, typical of a tree falling onto the line somewhere. We had to grope around in the dark for our flashlights and hope that the surge suppressors had done their jobs. They did - no electronic casualties.
The power stayed out until late Saturday morning. The morning routine with no power was a bit more work than normal. I had to make the first fire of the season, since the house was unheated overnight. Then I had to go outside and start the generator so we would have running water for making tea and porridge, not to mention washing and other necessities. We cook our porridge and boil water for tea and for washing dishes on the wood stove. Toast is made using a wire bread holder in the open door of the stove. After breakfast, I used the generator power to go online and do my regular computer maintenance tasks that my client counts on me to do one Saturday each month.
We hadn't planned to make a fire yet, preferring to wait until the chimney had had its annual cleaning. We had scheduled that particular chore for Friday, but with the storm, the chimney sweep sensibly cancelled. A metal roof is not a good place to be in wind and rain. He has rescheduled for tomorrow, but I see that the forecast is for more wind and rain.
Today, in between storms, we went out for our walk around the block. There were wisps of clouds around the Beaufort mountains, and a band of fog along the far shore of Baynes Sound. We also noticed some shrubs that are starting to show fall colours. This unidentified shrub is green at the bottom, orange in the middle, and silver at the top.
According to the calendar, Fall begins this coming week. By all appearances, it is already here. The maples started shedding their leaves weeks ago in response to the summer drought, giving them a head start on the season. The recent rain may slow them down now, but it won't be long before they shed the rest of them in response to the shortening days.
Our Virginia creeper is turning scarlet. It probably has the most colourful fall foliage of anything in our yard.
The Bantry Bay rose is getting set to flower again. It continues flowering until the first serious frost. It also puts on a growth spurt at this time of year. I tied up one branch that I wanted to train espalier-fashion along a trellis, and within a week, it had grown another foot.
In the garden, the fall rye that I planted last week is already about 4 inches tall. In the spring, it will be dug into the ground as a green manure.
When I was puttering in the garden this week, I noticed that several bunches of grapes, that I had judged to be almost edible, were suddenly missing. The avian experts had apparently decided that they were as ripe as they were going to get. So, I picked all the rest, except for the ones that were obviously not close to being ripe. Some of them are quite tart, but they are edible and relatively tasty.
Last night we had some real rain. It didn't last for long, but it sure came down hard! I woke up in the middle of the night hearing a roaring noise. It took me a couple of minuntes to realize that it was the rain on the roof. At its height, it was coming down at a rate of 15 mm per hour, which is extremely heavy. It didn't last long, though, and the total for today is only 18 mm.
Now that the gardening season is nearly over, we are starting to collect next year's irrigation water. Last night's rain added another 750 gallons, so the tanks are already more than half full. Since we plan to expand the garden in future, we are thinking of inreasing our storage capacity even more, probably to 6500 gallons.
This week's entertainment consisted of the annual budget meeting at the residents' association and a Marilyn Monroe movie at the Arts Centre. Although the Fire Department put on an excellent presentation of its 2011 budget at the meeting, the other group budgets were snoozers, and the movie was definitely the better of the two events. We are looking forward to the first concert of the new season this week.
The community hall is having a new cedar shake roof installed on its porch and the library addition. Part of the work has been completed, and it looks good.
The weather has cooled off and turned humid this week, and it is starting to feel like fall. We have had a few millimetres of rain, enough that I didn't have to water the garden this week. In fact, our stored rainwater is up by about 350 gallons from last week, so the drought pressure is off for this year. We will have enough water to see the garden through to the end of the season no matter what happens now.
Back in August, we bought an ornamental bird bath at the Filberg Festival. We have been faithfully topping it up with water in the hopes that somebody would use it, but no takers. Finally, this week, we noticed this bird slpashing around in it. He was actually doing quite a thorough job, splashing water under his wings and over his back. That's a tough action shot to take, though, so you'll have to make do with this more relaxed pose.
In the garden, I prepared one bed for next year. I weeded it and removed some plastic that the previous owners had buried in a misguided attempt to control the weeds on the walkways between rows. Then I dug in three wheelbarrow loads of compost and seeded some fall rye.
The apple crop is a bust all over the island this year, due to the cool spring. We will have a few Spartans and Gravensteins, but not many. The plums did well in terms of quantity, but it looks like the late start set them back too much. I don't have much hope of their ripening now that the weather has cooled off. Same thing with the grapes: lots of them, but they have been "a couple of days" from being ripe for the last two weeks. I harvested some of the ripest clusters just so we can say we have had some fresh fruit. They are edible, just a bit tart. Everything needs just a couple of weeks of hot weather.
In other fall-ish activities, I bucked up some firewood logs that have been sitting in the yard since the spring. This photo shows about half the pile. Wendy has been hard at work with the splitter, so the rest is already stacked in the woodshed.
There were no cultural events to speak of this week, but we did go down to the General Store today to purchase our season tickets for this winter's concert season. The artistic director this year is a retired concert violinist, so the lineup has a definite classical emphasis. It looks like it will be an excellent season.
Coming up this week is the annual budget meeting of the Residents' Association. I may have to break my no-caffeine-after-noon rule and brew up an extra potent batch of coffee to get through that one!
The Labour Day weekend means two things: tons of tourists squeezing in the last couple of days of their summer vacations, and the Denman Island Blackberry Fair.
Apparently, ferry traffic is up this year. Most of the tourists are heading for Hornby Island, usually just as quickly as they can, but we have certainly noticed a lot of them hanging around "downtown" Denman. In fact, it is a good thing that we usually walk downtown, as there often are no parking spaces available.
We have even noticed an increase in tourist traffic on our street. Some of them have had the nerve to drive into our driveway asking for directions to the chocolate factory. We have decided that the best response is: "If you had made an appointment, you would have been given directions."
Hornby Island has a tradition that they call the "Wave-Off". When the last ferry of the day departs Hornby at the end of the Labour Day weekend, taking essentially the last tourists of the summer with it, the residents gather on the ferry dock to wave goodbye to them. It has been interpreted by some as a friendly gesture, but locals know that it is an expression of relief that they have got their island back again for another nine months.
The Blackberry Fair appeared to have been a success this year. Unlike last year's deluge, the weather was perfect for a fall fair: mostly sunny, not too hot, and dry. For my Fire Department colleagues and me, the day began with setting up the grills for the traditional burger barbecue. As is customary, I was in charge of the veggie burgers. The burgers, both veggie and non-, all sold out, which counts as a success by any standard.
For other attendees, the fair began with the traditional parade, carefully timed to avoid the ferry traffic. The parade route goes through the entire length of downtown Denman, both blocks of it. Along with the usual costumes and fire trucks, there was a large contingent from Transition Denman, the group seeking to make Denman Island a "Transition Island" (based on the Transition Town movement in Britain), a cummunity that is moving towards a less energy-intensive lifestyle.
Another group in the parade was Denman Opposes Coal, which is seeking to stop the proposed development of a new coal mine directly across Baynes Sound from Denman. Their float consisted of a giant dead canary.
Of course, no fall fair would be complete without vegetable, flower and craft contests. The cabbages and sunflowers were truly gigantic, and the vegetable and flower baskets were artfully arranged.
In our own garden, I have been cleaning up some beds in preparation for fall and winter. One bed is ready for planting clover or fall rye as a green manure.
Though this has been a poor year for fruit due to the cool wet spring, our grapes look like they will be very abundant this year. I am keeping a close eye on then now. In some clusters, a few grapes are edible, though still a bit tart. Some will likely be harvestable within a week. I will have to judge their ripeness as accurately as possible, because the true experts, the birds and raccoons, will take every last one if I am a day late!
My construction project this week has been to make a pair of manhole covers for the septic tank. You will recall that we had the septic tank serviced a couple of weeks ago. That involved locating the tank and digging down through 18 inches of overburden to expose the hatches on the tank. Since that is not a process that I relish doing again in the future, bearing in mind that I will be four years older each time it needs repeating, I built wooden access covers over the two tank hatches. The sides of the excavations are lined with pressure-treated wood, with a wooden cover flush with the ground. In future, locating the hatches will be a snap, and exposing them will involve nothing more than lifting the wooden covers.
This week, we decided to go on a cruise. We have heard so much about cruises, and we see the cruise ships sailing up the Gulf on summer evenings, so we thought, Why not?
On Wednesday, we drove up to Campbell River, then across the width of Vancouver Island to Gold River. Gold River is a somewhat shabby former mill town in a very pretty setting. Its two surviving industries are fishing and the M.V. Uchuck III, our "cruise" ship.
If you have been following this blog for a while, you will have heard me mention the Uchuck before: twice in the past, we have sailed on its day trip to Friendly Cove, on Nootka Island. The ship is a 136-foot converted WWII minesweeper, that operates as a freighter and passenger ferry serving fish farms, logging camps and isolated communities on the fjords and inlets of western Vancouver Island.
This time, we went on a two-day cruise to the village of Kyuquot. Unlike the Friendly Cove day trip we have taken in previous years, which is stricly a tourist trip, this was a working freight run. The route is mostly inshore, with a two-hour stretch out in the open sea. From the Gold River dock, it sails out Muchalat Inlet, across Nootka Sound and up Tahsis Inlet. It then squeezes through Tahsis Narrows, only about 100 yards wide, into Hecate Channel and Esperanza Inlet. From the mouth of Esperanza Inlet, it sails about a mile offshore to Kyuquot.
On Thursday, we began with an early start from our B&B in order to be down at the Gold River dock,a 15-minute drive out of town, at 6:40 for our 7:00 sailing. All 13 passengers showed up on time, and we sailed before the sun had cleared the mountaintops.
As we sailed down Muchalat Inlet, we were reminded that the Uchuck is primarily a working freighter, rather than a cruise ship. We stopped at one of the many fish farms to offload fish food - 15 tons of it, in big one-ton bags. We were amazed that so much cargo would fit in the small ship's hold. We were even more amazed when the skipper told us that that was only half the shipment. He was keeping half of it on board to serve as ballast for the later open-sea portion of the voyage.
We continued down the inlet to a logging camp, where we delivered groceries and hydraulic fluid, and to another fish farm, where we dropped off two large propane cylinders. We were quite impressed at the dexterity with which the ship's crew used the crane to handle the various types of cargo. No doubt they had done it before.
At the second fish farm, we got a good look at the ship that collects the fish from the farm to send them to market. It has what appears to be a huge vacuum cleaner on the back of it. As it turns out, that is exactly what it is. They vacuum the fish out of the pens right into the ship's hold.
From Muchalat Inlet, we sailed across Nootka Sound, up Tahsis Inlet, and out Esperanza Inlet. The weather, which had been partly cloudy, turned a bit showery, but there was plenty of room inside for everyone. We made a short side trip into Port Eliza, which is the name of another inlet, not an actual port, to offload more groceries. For this delivery, the dock was full, so the groceries were offloaded directly onto a small boat that had tied up alongside us as we bobbed in the middle of the inlet.
Heading out the mouth of Esperanza Inlet from Port Eliza, we started to notice the ocean swells. The entire coast from Esperanza Inlet to Kyuquot is lined with rocks and reefs. We started out by sailing on the seaward side of the rocks, where we "enjoyed" the full power of the ocean swells. The Uchuck is quite a seaworthy vessel, but it rocks and rolls a lot on the swells. It was built for coastal work, not the open ocean. It would probably be uncomfortable in a storm.
After half an hour or so, we entered a gap between the reefs and sailed the remainder of the route in the channel between the offshore rocks and the shore. The ride was considerably smoother inshore of the reefs. Along the way, we saw our first whale of the trip, a humpback.
We arrived at Kyuquot about 3:30 in the afternoon, ahead of schedule. The village is in two parts: the native section is on the Vancouver Island side of the harbour, while the non-native section is on the small island that encloses the harbour. There are no roads and no vehicles. All traffic is by boat or on foot, depending on the destination.
We had some free time to wander around the village before meeting back on the ship for dinner. The ship's cook very thoughtfully made bean-filled cabbage rolls, so that Wendy and I would have something vegan to eat. They were very good.
After dinner, the transportation arrived to take the passengers to their various bed-and-breakfast establishments. We clambered onto the small boat and were motored across the harbour to our accommodations. Wendy and I shared our B&B with a couple from New Zealand who spend the northern summer in Canada and the southern summer in NZ.
On Friday morning, after breakfast, we were motored back across the harbour to the Uchuck. The return trip followed the same route in reverse. On the open-sea leg, we saw the highlight of the trip: more whales, including a group of two adults and one calf. They are very difficult to photograph. When you see them spout, you hardly have time to point the camera and grab a quick shot before they dive again. I managed to get a couple of pictures using the "point it in the general direction on wide-angle and crop later" technique. The weather on the whale segment of the trip was ideal: sunny, with enough clouds to make the mountains look photogenic.
As we crossed Nootka Sound, we stopped to pick up two kayakers who had been dropped off earlier in the week. As you can see, the ship's crane has an attachment for every purpose. The kayakers simply paddle onto the hoist and are lifted up onto the deck, where they can step out in style.
On the way back up Muchalat Inlet, we stopped to drop off propane tanks at a fishing resort and returned to the first fish farm to deliver the remaining 15 tons of fish food, which the skipper had retained as ballast. We were quite glad to have had the temporary use of it.
It was an excellent trip, through outstanding scenery, and we are already planning our next voyage on the Uchuck.
This week began with a continuation of the hot weather we had last week. It was hard to keep everything in the garden watered in the heat. Our normal irrigation consumption of 30 gallons a day was up to 60 gallons or more a day, and things were still showing signs of heat stress. At that rate, our stored water would run out some time in mid-September. With the return of cooler weather, our consumption should drop off again. Still, some rain would be nice.
One plant that did well in the heat is Wendy's portulaca, that she keeps in pots on the deck.
A cold front that came through the area on Wednesday cleared up the forest fire smoke that had been in the area for a couple of weeks, but apparently aggravated the fire situation in the Interior, due to the dry, strong winds.
My father gave us a scare when he was admitted to hospital with gall-bladder problems on Tuesday. I flew out to Fort Saskatchewan on Wednesday to visit him, along with my brothers from Vancouver and Saskatoon. Thankfully, he is recovering well, though he will remain in hospital a little longer. We were able to have a good visit with him, and it was good for my brothers and me to hang out together for a while.
The same cold front that cleared the air our here on the coast did the exact opposite in Fort Saskatchewan. The change in wind direction blew the smoke from northern British Columbia directly over the Edmonton area. Visibility in the smoke was at times as low as half a mile. On Thursday, Fort Saskatchewan recorded a particulate level of 1000 micrograms per cubic metre. Health officials consider 25 micrograms per cubic metre to be the maximum safe level. Luckily, we spent most of that day indoors.
Today, back on Denman Island, Wendy and I had a visit from one of our old friends from the Rocky Mountain Ramblers hiking club in Calgary, Ron Hunter. When we heard he was going to be on Vancouver Island, we invited him over to Denman for an afternoon. We gave him the 5-cent tour of Denman Island and enjoyed a pleasant afternoon catching up on old times.
This has not been a very exciting week. For the most part, it has been too hot do do anything except relax in the hammock. Last weekend's rain is a distant memory. We are back to the hot, dry, dusty, smoky weather that we had before the rain. Once again, the Beaufort Range across the sound on Vancouver Island is barely visible because of the smoke from northern forest fires. The mountains in the other direction, across the Salish Sea on Texada Island and the Mainland, are totally obscured.
The Fire Department has been putting up "No Smoking" and "No Fires" signs all over the island, wherever there are trails, to remind people, especially visitors, of how dry things are.
Our big excitement this week was getting our septic tank pumped out. (I told you it was a slow week!) Like it or not, it has to be done every few years. We've put it off for five years, which is at the upper limit of what is recommended. Based on the recommendation of Harold Birkeland, I called Al's Septic Services, one of several such services in Courtenay. I was very pleased with their service: "Al" was very professional, explaining the condition of the system and what maintenance would need to be done next time.
The day before, I had to do some digging to locate and expose the cover(s) of the septic tank. Only one hatch had been marked by the previous owner, in the wrong place. Once I had dug down what I hoped was far enough at the marked spot, I had to gradually enlarge the hole sideways until I hit concrete. I quickly found an access hatch, exposed it and stopped digging. What I didn't realize until Al showed up was that there were two hatches. After opening and inspecting the hatch I had uncovered, he pointed to where the second hatch should be, and I started digging some more.
The job went smoothly, and we are booked for a reminder call in four years.
As I mentioned last week, it is time to collect seeds. I gathered all the dried parsnip seed heads and rubbed the seeds off into a big paper bag. Now I know that we don't need to grow a lot of plants to collect seeds! I have enough parsnip seeds to fill more than a dozen envelopes. We can't use them all ourselves, and they only keep about two years, but we now have plenty to trade at next winter's "Seedy Saturday". The accompanying photo shows only a small fraction of the parsnip seeds. The rest are spread out on a tray to dry before being packaged.
I also harvested turnip seeds, using the same technique, but the quantity was not quite so extravagant. We will have enough for our own needs and maybe a couple of envelopes to trade. Seed saving is something that is being encouraged as part of the local food sustainability initiative here on the island.
Keeping the garden watered in this heat is a challenge. Last week's rain did top up the tanks a little bit, and gave us a break from watering for a couple of days, but, in this heat, everything is now needing a lot more water. Depending on how we use the water that is left, it will likely run out some time in September.
Basic rule of diary-writing: when you have no other photos to show, include a cat picture. In this view, two mighty hunters glare at each other across a clearing in the jungle.
Well, my complaining about the lack of weather seems to have done some good. We had weather this week.
In the early part of the week, the temperature got up into the high 20s, warm enough to enjoy some hammock time. For most of the week, the sky was hazy with smoke from the forest fires in northern British Columbia. A couple of days, the visibility was down to only a mile or two. We could barely see across Baynes Sound to Buckley Bay, and the mountains on Vancouver Island were totally obscured. What sunlight made it through the smoke was a pale orange colour. The Fire Chief was innundated with calls from people smelling smoke, but fortunately, none of the smoke was local.
Then, on Saturday, we had rain. Yes, actual water falling out of the sky! The total rainfall was 15.5 mm, which doesn't sound like much, but it gave us an additional 450 gallons of water in the cisterns. That is an extra two weeks of watering the garden, in addition to the next couple of days that will not need watering.
Though the rainfall was welcome, it was not enough to make a significant difference to the ground moisture level. Today, I had to do some digging to expose the septic tank access for tomorrow's scheduled pump-out. As I was digging, the most noticeable thing was that the soil was as dry as dust from the surface down to 18 inches.
On Friday, we attended an event to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, organized by the local Peace Group. We learned how to make origami paper cranes, which are a symbol of the international Hiroshima commemorations. About a dozen of us filled a large bowl with them. They will be sent to the mayor of Hiroshima.
In the garden, it is time to collect the seeds from last year's parsnips and turnips. The beans are coming along nicely, as are the butternut squash. We have been eating lots of mixed greens from the garden and have harvested all the garlic. The raspberries have slowed down. We think that racoons got into them one night when the electric fence was shorted out. They are recovering now, and with more warm weather in the forecast, we are expecting lots more berries.
Our grapes will produce a bumper crop if they ripen, and if we can get them before the birds and raccoons do. They need heat, though, and except for those couple of days, it has been a cool summer.
The photo is not of our eating grapes, but of the wild Oregon grapes. This is the first year that they have been fenced off from the deer (in the cat enclosure), so it is the first time we have been able to see the fruit. Apparently, they are edible, though not tasty. They make a pleasant but bland jelly. I think we will just enjoy looking at them.
The lack of weather continues, with no end in sight. The same stationary weather system that is giving the prairies all the thunderstorms is preventing any weather from moving in from the Pacific. So, it remains warm, sunny and dry. We set a record for the driest July since 1985. The Fire Department and Forestry are getting concerned about the extreme fire hazard.
This week, I completed the interior trim on the new kitchen window. It was fiddly work, because the dimensions were all determined in advance by the cabinets and their trim. Everything had to be an exact fit. I made it all from cedar, stained to match the existing pine finish. I am quite pleased with the results. The old window barely came down to the level of the cabinets, so this is a significant improvement.
This was the weekend of the Filberg Festival in Comox. It is an annual festival of arts and crafts, along with a music festival. Because we had a gift certificate for the Kingfisher Inn in Royston, we stayed there Friday night and spent two days, Friday and Saturday, at the festival.
It is a juried festival, so the crafts are all of top quality. Among the exhibitors were silversmith Corrine Hunt, co-designer of the 2010 Winter Olympic medals, and Denman Island's own Gordon Hutchens, who is an internationally reknowned potter.
We spent Friday admiring the crafts, including some stunning glass work. We spent most of Saturday listening to the music, which included Spirit of the West, Valdy and Jesse Winchester. We came home with a beautiful breadboard made of yew wood, and a whimsical copper birdbath.
Today, back on Denman, we visited several studios on the annual studio tour. We have seen most of the local artists' studios by now, so we concentrated on new studios and ones that we have not visited recently. It was not a good weekend for the studio tour, because of the competition from the Filberg Festival and several other events happening in the Comox Valley at the same time on the long weekend. The tourist traffic to Hornby was very heavy, but none of the tourists was likely to even slow down in their rush to catch the second ferry, let alone stop to tour a studio. Several artists said that attendance was down this year.
The weather this week has been seasonably warm, with temperatures in the low to mid 20s and lots of sunshine. We have had no significant rain since June 14th, and none at all since July 1st, so things are starting to get bone dry. Yesterday, Forestry raised the fire hazard for this area to Extreme, and the members of the Fire Department are hoping that there will be no brush fires.
We are using an average of 30 gallons of stored rainwater per day in the garden. One tank is now empty, and we are working on the second tank. At this rate, we have enough water to last until October, by which time we will hopefully have had some rain. However, in the future we want to expand the garden, and we can see now that we could use one more tank.
One plant that likes the hot dry weather is Wendy's portulaca, which she grows in several pots on the deck.
The strawberries have finally just about stopped producing. Yesterday, from the three beds, we got just enough berries for a couple of bowls of cereal. Though they started late, we had a good run with them and now have lots in the freezer.
The timing couldn't have been better, because the raspberries are now in full production. They should have been producing before now, and Wendy was getting a bit suspicious that someone was eating them. So far, we have not enclosed the raspberries like we have with the strawberries, so they were open picking for any bird that came along. And apparently quite a few were. I covered the raspberry patch with a big net, and suddenly we have plenty of berries. We caught a couple of young robins who managed to get under the net and had to be cut free, but the openings through which they entered are now closed up tight and we have had no more incidents.
My main project this week has been to replace the kitchen window. The old window was a cheapie aluminum-framed slider unit which wept copiously from condensation in the winter time. It also had a sill that was quite high relative to the counter height, making working at the kitchen sink feel claustrophobic. The new window is a vinyl-clad casement window that is of much better quality. I ordered it 9 inches taller than the old one to improve the lighting and view in the kitchen.
Of course, changing the size of the window meant doing some surgery on the structure of the wall. Fortunately, the extra size was at the bottom, structurally the least problematical direction in which to expand an opening. Still, I had to peel off the siding, remove the old window, cut down the studs without making too much of a mess inside the kitchen, and then reframe the opening. I got the new window installed in the opening on the first day, an essential milestone in order to cat-proof the project.
Yesterday, I reinstalled the siding and completed the exterior work. Now, I am working on the interior trim. That will take a few days, as there is drywall to repair, and the casing pieces have to be stained. Already, even unfinshed, the kitchen looks a lot better.
In between working on that project, I took advantage of the empty rainwater tank to re-work some plumbing connections on it. One of the posts for the new deck ended up directly in front of my fire department connection, and I needed to replace a broken valve. The valve in question is the only thing holding water in the tank, so it can only be worked on when the tank is empty. The odd arrangement of the pipes is a result of changes to the design after the tank and the buried pipe were in place. However strange it may look, everything went together properly with no leaks. I have a nice shiny new valve, and the fire department connection is pointing in a useful direction now.
In spite of this having been a particularly busy week, there's not a lot to report.
The weather is so predictable (to anyone except Environment Canada) that it is becoming boring: the temperature rises rapidly to 21°C in the morning, then gets stuck there for the rest of the day. This in spite of Environment Canada's optimistic forecasts of temperatures anywhere from 24°C to 27°C. Still, 21 is not bad, and it has been consistently sunny.
The reason for the busy-ness this week was the annual Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival. In addition to attending most of the readings and other festival events, we hosted one of the writers, Brian Brett. He is the author of Trauma Farm, a memoir of small farm life and an examination of sustainability, ecology, and our relationship to the land. He is also a poet, a very intelligent man, and a great guest.
All the festival authors are billeted in the homes of islanders, as is the case for most visiting performers. Our guest cottage is ideal for this. Brian arrived on Thursday afternoon, and we got to talk to him over breakfast each day of the festival.
The normal routine is that the hosts provide accommodations and breakfasts, and the festival organizers take care of all the other details. However, this time, we ended up with a few extra duties, as Brian's truck broke down just as he arrived in our driveway: a major leak in one brake line. In between festival events, we had to arrange for an island mechanic to come and look at the problem. There are no tow trucks on Denman Island, and getting a tow truck from town is not a reasonable option. Neither is trying to get down the ferry hill with no brakes!
We were able to order the necessary parts from town, delivered to the Buckley Bay ferry. I skipped out of a couple of festival events to take the ferry accross to pick them up on the other side. By Saturday afternoon, the mechanic had maufactured and installed (without benefit of a hoist, but with assistance from your truly) a complete new brake line, we had bled and tested the brakes, and Brian's truck was roadworthy again.
I am sure it was an adventure that he could have done without, but hopefully it will contribute to our festival's reputation for hospitality to the writers. We have heard rumours that it is already developing that reputation. We also heard that the Globe and Mail rated it one of the top three writers' festivals in the country. Certainly, this year's edition was a great success.
Well, finally, summer seems to have arrived! This week, we have had temperatures in the high 20s and even a few days over 30°C.
The strawberries have responded by producing in bucketloads and demanding to be picked at least every other day. Of course, now it is usually too hot to pick any time except early morning or late evening. The raspberries have started to wake up, though they are not producing yet. There are lots of immature berries on them that we are hoping will grow and ripen in the next few weeks.
We have been eating salads of home-grown greens, and the beans, parsnips and carrots are coming along. I planted some beets this week for fall and winter harvesting.
It has actually been warm enough this week to spend some time in the hammock reading.
Our local deer are also relaxing in the heat. It is funny to see the "little" baby deer that we fed two winters ago because they were so scrawny come back with nice big antlers.
Today, Wendy and I walked across to Cable Beach on the east side of the island. It is one of the more accessible beaches on Denman, and is about a 45 minute walk from our place. In spite of its being a warm but not hot summer weekend, there was not a person to be seen on the beach. There are advantages to having beaches that are rocky instead of sandy.
The beach slopes away very gently at Cable Beach, and the midday low tide was one of the lowest of the year, so we were able to walk a long way out, looking at the marine life in the tidal pools and just enjoying the stroll. The photo is looking back at Denman Island from near the low tide waterline.
This evening, we went to a choral concert at the community hall. The choir, Aarhus Pigekor, is a Danish girls choir, in this part of the world for the biennial Powel River International Choral Kathaumixw, which just wrapped up yesterday. The Powell River event is a major choral music festival that we intend to go to one of these years. All the more so after hearing this choir.
The various choirs are now on individual tours of British Columbia. The tours were booked months ago, but we must have had especially good karma, because Aarhus Pigekor not only won prizes in several individual categories, they were also rated the best overall choir at Powell River.
The choir consisted of about 35 girls aged 16-25. They sang a wide variety of music, much of it in English, with some Latin, Japanese and of course Danish. We both like choral music anyway, but this group was really outstanding. The highlight of their concert was Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". It is a fine song, but horribly overdone, with some truly dreadful versions out there, as well as some beautiful ones. Well, this choir's version was without exaggeration the best version I have ever heard. Audiences will stand for just about anything, but they deserved both standing ovations tonight.
The main event this week was picking strawberries. Picking them, and trying to find containers to freeze them in and space in the freezer in which to put them. Oh yes, and eating them! I'll spare you yet another photo.
Besides the berries, the other events this week were Canada Day and the Fire Department's annual pancake breakfast. Canada Day on the island is pretty low-key. For many, such as people in the building trades trying to take advantage of the good weather, it is just another work day. For others, it is just another day in the garden. Wendy and I celebrated by going to the Bistro for coffee, and then watching the start of a parade put on by the local horse club. The objective of the parade was to ride down to the ferry dock to greet tourists arriving on the island. Since we aren't crazy about having tourists here at all, we just watched the horses and then left to walk around the block.
Yesterday, we went to an open house at the studio of local painter Leslie Dunsmore. We enjoyed touring her garden and looking at her newest paintings, of course, but we were also captivated by the swallows that live in a bird house on the gable end of her house. The baby birds were just taking their first flight that day. I caught this little fellow sitting in the doorway of the bird house trying to decide if jumping out was really such a good idea.
Today's big event was the annual Fire Department pancake breakfast. It is a major production, involving the entire department, the ambulance crew, several other island organizations, and several weeks of planning. Our Thursday evening "practice" this week consisted of preparations: sweeping out the hall, washing the trucks, cleaning grills, and borrowing about 30 picnic tables. This morning, we were reminded at 6:15 am by our pagers that we were expected at the hall at 6:30. The trucks had to be parked in a special configuration that gets them out of the way, but still keeps them on display and, more importantly, available to respond in the event of an emergency. Grills were set up for bacon, veggie sausages and pancakes, tables set up for serving food and buying tickets, raffle prizes were displayed, and picnic tables had to be covered with paper. Pancake batter was mixed up, strawberries sliced, coffee brewed, and, amazingly, at 9:00, when the first customers were served, everything was ready.
I had my camera with me, but things were rather busy, so I was only able to take pictures of the setup. How many firefighters does it take to light a grill?
The breakfast was very successful. The forecast showers did not materialize, but a cloud cover kept it from being a scorcher. For two and a half hours, the lineup was steady. We estimated that we served around 600 or 700 breakfasts. When you consider that the permanent population of Denman Island is only about 1100, that is a major community event, probably the biggest single event on the island.
Part way through the breakfast, the Fire Department was called to a medical emergency. A callout during the pancake breakfast is something that we always consider in planning the event, but it has not happened since the very early days of the department. We were able to demonstrate, in front of a large crowd, how quickly and professionally we can respond. A crew quickly manned the carefully-positioned First Responder vehicle, while other people moved in to take over the abandoned grills. As it turned out, only a three-person crew was required, and the breakfast continued without missing a beat. In the event of a major fire during the breakfast, the entire department would be required, but spouses, junior members and friends of the department would take over the breakfast operation.
The cleanup after the breakfast normally proceeds quickly. The biggest single part of the cleanup involves returning the 30 borrowed picnic tables to their owners, and requires several large flatbed trailers. Today, we only had one trailer, and it was after 3:00 before we were finished. While we were hanging around the hall waiting for the trailer to return for another load, this polyphemus moth fell out of an outdoor light fixture. It was quite large, though apparently they can grow even bigger, and had very striking markings. It seemed quite dopey, but eventually it flow off into the forest.
The weather continues on the cool side of where it ought to be, but we have had several warmish days, warm enough for things to start happening in the garden. The strawberries are now in full production. The photo shows today's berry harvest. We now have to pick at least every second day, or even every day to keep up. There is nothing that can beat fresh strawberries!
Okay, I know that repeating two picture subjects from last week is a bit much, but I couldn't resist this one - the photo is of the dragonfly, not the rose. There must have been a major hatch of dragonflies in the last day or two. The insects have been around for a couple of months, but suddenly, they are everywhere in large numbers. We are happy to have them around because they effectively take care of all the mosquitoes. It is quite fascinating to watch the dragonflies hunting, snatching smaller insects out of midair. The result is that, at least on our own property, we don't need to bother with insect repellent.
This week, Wendy was feeling in need of a Doberman fix. She invited a local Doberman and his human to come over to Denman Island for a short visit. In true Doberman fashion, Cole insisted on being patted continuously for the entire time he was here. We had a fine visit for a couple of hours. Compatibility with the cats wasn't an issue. They made themselves scarce and didn't come out of hiding until they had left, so they never did meet him.
On Thursday, I was in Nanaimo all day for a meeting between the Island Trust Fund (the land conservancy branch of the Islands Trust) and various individual island conservancy groups. Along with three other Denman Islanders, I was representing the Denman Conservancy Association. The objective of the meeting was to provide the Islands Trust Fund with local information about conservation priorities to help them in mapping and eventually acquiring land. It was an interesting opportunity to meet with other conservancy associations and to compare issues, priorities and processes.
On Friday, Wendy and I drove down to Victoria for a brief gataway and to do a bit of shopping. We played tourist, taking the obligatory photo of the Empress Hotel. More importantly, we visited several stores that we don't have in the Comox Valley, like Mountain Equipment Co-op and Lee Valley, and our favourite Chinese vegan restaurant, the Lotus Pond. We only stayed one night in Victoria, because there is so much happening on Denman. Today, I was assembling a drip irrigation system from Lee Valley.
We also took a walk with some friends to Boyle Point, at the south end of Denman Island, for a picnic lunch and to see the eagle's nest that is easily visible down the cliff from the viewpoint. Unfortunately, I forgot the camera. D'oh! There were supposed to be two eaglets in the nest, but we could only see one through binoculars. Since they aren't fledged yet, we can only assume that its sibling met with an early demise. The on-duty parent was standing by a tidal pool down on the beach.
Tomorrow morning at 04:28 am, the summer solstice occurs and summer officialy begins. I am not optimistic that summer weather will follow. Normally, by this time of year, we have had several hot spells with temperatures in the high 20s. This year, temperatures have only barely cracked 20°C a handful of times. However, the last couple of weeks have given us less rain and temperatures that are less cool - I hesitate to say "warmer" - than they have been.
The climbing rose has its first bloom, and several more on the way. I suspect that its blooming has more to do with the hours of daylight than the temperature, but we're happy to see it regardless.
We have finally had enough sunny afternoons to convince the strawberries to wake up. They are a week or two behind schedule, but we were able to pick enough for a couple of desserts. As long as the weather continues to warm up, we should have a large crop.
Our beans and butternut squash plants are up and starting to grow, and the rest of our veggies are mostly recognizable. The second-year parsnips that we are growing to seed are now over eight feet tall, and their flowers are full of bees. The weeds, of course, are quite happy with the weather.
We seem to have counted our pears before they were hatched. Initially, we thought we were going to have dozens, but they must have been the remains of unpollinated blossoms that didn't develop. However, we do have a handful. The other fruits are doing well. We have lots of apples, plums and raspberries growing. The grapes have produced a large number of blossoms, and there are plenty of bumblebees around to pollinate them, but this time I am not going to report grapes developing until they actually are. All the fruit, and especially the grapes, are going to need some serious heat if they are going to amount to anything.
We have had enough decent weather to justify dusting off our bikes and taking them out for a spin. Both of us were out riding "around the block" this afternoon.
I haven't been doing any major projects this week, other than trying to get the garden under control. However, necessity prompted me to do some tool-making. The main valve on one of the rainwater cisterns was stuck. I know from experience that trying to force the valve by hand will only break off the handles. Since there was no way to lubricate it, and removing it would make a big, 2000-gallon mess, I decided I needed a special-purpose tool for the job. From a scrap of lumber, a few minutes with a saw and chisel produced a custom-made valve wrench. It worked like a charm.
The weather this week has been gradually stabilizing. We are still hoping for a normal summer after our cool, soggy spring. We are also still hoping for some strawberries. We have tons of green berries that are still waiting for enough warmth to ripen.
On Monday, we went for a hike to the site of the proposed coal mine across Baynes Sound on Vancouver Island. The weather was ideal for hiking, with the exception of a couple of showers. The objective was for one of the members of our local Coalwatch group's technical committee to gather data on stream flows, and Wendy and I tagged along. I was surprised to learn just how close the mine is going to be to us. The maps that were circulated when the project was first announced showed it as being behind a ridge. Well, the "ridge" turns out to be barely a bump, and the whole project is closer to the coast than to the mountains. The round trip to the site, including side trips to the various streams was only fourteen and a half kilometres.
The photo shows a valley that will be filled in with tailings from the mine. Granted the landscape in the area is already quite industrial due to logging, but an entire watershed and its tributaries will be sacrificed for the mine.
Another walk this week, this time closer to home, was the annual low tide nature walk, led by marine biologist John Tayless. This weekend's low tides, combining the new moon with next week's solstice, were among the lowest of the year. John gave us a guided tour of the full width of one of Denman's beaches from the high tide line all the way to the low tide waterline, explaining the different survival strategies of the inhabitants of each region. He showed us the variety of life that hides under rocks when the tide is out, including vertebrates such as gobies, blennies and midshipmen, invertebrates such as starfish, sea cucumbers and snails, and a tunicate, which is not a vertebrate, but is not quite an invertebrate either, being a non-vertebrate chordate. So there.
In the garden, things are still slow, except for the weeds. The second-season parsnips are now over six feet tall and are flowering. I did a bunch of weeding and spent some time today turning the compost piles. Composting is hardly any work in this climate. Throughout the year, you pile all your surplus vegetation in one or two piles. Once a year, you move the vegetation on top to get at the bottom half of the pile which is beautiful black compost. That's it. Of course, when all the work is compressed into one day, my back has a hard time believing that it is hardly any work, but seriously, it couldn't be any easier.
Also today, I installed my wind and solar radiation instruments on the rooftop. It is part of my program to improve the accuracy of my weather measurements. My wind measurements will never be accurate, thanks to the height of the trees in all directions, but they should be more accurate now than they were in the old location. I still have some wiring to do in the crawlspace to connect the instruments, but I plan to get that done this week in order to get the solar radiation instruments online before the solstice.
The weather has continued to be cool and wet this week. We have more strawberries than last week, but they are all still green. A few are showing a hint of a blush, but none of them are ripe yet. We had better get some warm weather soon, because we only have one container of frozen strawberries from last year left in the freezer.
Though crops that need heat are developing slowly, if at all, and plants seeded this spring are growing slowly, our fruit trees are doing very well. It seems to have been a good combination of a mild winter and a moist spring. Our plum and pear trees in particular are loaded with baby fruit. If we get enough warmth in the summer, we should have a good harvest from them. The grapevine is loaded with flower clusters. Every shoot has at least one cluster on it, so, with good conditions later on (and if we can beat the raccoons to them), we might harvest enough that I will be forced to make wine.
We have cleaned up the yard of the last of the construction debris, and the place is looking quite spiffy. Because everything is so green, it really looks its best at this time of year.
I have been staining the trim on the new deck: the railings now have their two coats. I still have to stain the east wall of the house. That is the wall that is under the new roof. Because it is the weather side of the building, the cedar siding is gray from the rain. With everything else in that area looking shiny and new, a coat of stain is in order to spruce it up.
In spite of the damp weather, we have had a few nice days to walk around the block. The scotch broom is still flowering, but the flower of the season is now the wild rose. They are everywhere along the sides of the roads, and climbing up into trees.
This morning, as a change from our regular walk, we walked over to Bruce and Lee-Andra's for their annual brunch. The walk took us down Pickles Road to where the hiking trail branches off, through a mile of crown forest to Central Park. We then followed the trails in Central Park until we reached the boardwalk across a small marsh. The boardwalk was built last year by the Denman Conservancy Association, which owns Central Park, and connects two trails to make a nice loop route.
From the marsh, we walked on trails that cut across private property until we got to Bruce and Lee-Andra's place. There, they had their Rockin' Café set up: the kitchen is under a tent, and all the tables are al fresco. It was a good day for it, and they had plenty of customers. We had vegan "huevos" rancheros and coffee, chatted with various folks, and then returned by the same route. The walk was an hour each way and avoided any roads except the short stretch of Pickles Road.
This has been a fairly uneventful week. Wendy has been nursing a cold, and the weather has been too cool and rainy to do much outdoors.
Everyone is complaining about the weather. Frequently, they complain to me as the weatherman, until I point out to them that, when it comes to weather, I am in advertising, not management. In March, after a mild winter, everything was a full month ahead of schedule. Now, in late spring, gardens are not ahead at all and are in danger of falling behind schedule.
In the garden, the weeds are loving all the rain. With the newer plantings, it is hard to identify the vegetables among all the weeds. The perennials are doing well. We have carrots, parsnips and turnips left over from last year that we are intentionally growing to seed this year. All are exceptionally vigorous. The parsnips are at eye level, and I have to look up to see the tops of the turnips. (Lest there be any confusion, I am talking about the tops of the plants, not the roots!)
Our strawberries are very prolific this year. There are lots and lots of blossoms, and, for a while, it looked like we were in for a bumper crop. Now, however, we have a lot of green berries that are more likely to mould than ripen. There is no sunshine in the forecast until maybe next weekend at the earliest.
Our climbing rose is growing well and has quite a few flower buds on it. We are not expecting them to open yet, since it flowers in mid- to late summer, but it looks healthy. I gave it a feed of horse manure this week, which, with all the rain, should make it happy. It will probably want some sunshine before it flowers, though.
On Wednesday, the showers stopped long enough for the grass to dry out. As you can imagine, the grass loves this weather and is growing about as fast as the turnips. (By the side of the road, there is grass that is chest-high!) I took advantage of the dry spell to get out the lawnmower and cut it all before it got out of control. It was just as well that I did. By the next day, I heard people grumbling that they missed their chance to cut their grass and now they would have to scythe it.
I spent some time working on the outdoor lights under the roof of the new deck. The lights were already wired in, but the old fixtures were ugly, industrial things that were in urgent need of replacing. I first had to do some woodworking to create a level surface among the boards and battens on which to mount the new light fixtures.
I had trouble getting them to work, though. It turned out that there was no power at the switch. My first thought was that the construction had damaged the wiring. If that were the case, it was imperative that I find the damaged section and replace it. I started tracing wires and found that they didn't go where I thought they did. A trip up into the attic convinced me that wire tracing was going to be a lot more challenging than I had thought. Overnight, however, the though occurred to me (as these things do) that there was a circuit breaker on the panel whose function I had never determined. Hmmm. A circuit without power and a breaker with no load... I wonder if they might be related. This morning, one little "click", and two mysteries were solved.
Last weekend, I missed posting Denman Diary because I was in Alberta visiting my father. We had a really enjoyable visit.
While I was away, Wendy went on the annual Tree Island walk. Tree Island is a small islet off the north tip of Denman Island which is accessible on foot at low tide. At this time of year, low tide occurs in the middle of the day, and the spring flowers are at their best. The walk is one of a series of nature walks sponsored by the Denman Conservancy Association, and is always well-attended. This time, there were 40 people, which apparently made managing the group a challenge for the coordinator.
This weekend, the May long weekend, is the start of the tourist season on the islands. Most of the tourists head straight over to Hornby Island, which is welcome to have them. However, they all have to cross Denman to get there. Traffic can be heavy when the ferry unloads. The two ferry schedules (Vancouver Island-Denman and Denman-Hornby) are synchronized to facilitate crossing Denman with the minimum fuss. Once an hour, there is a rush of traffic in one direction, followed a few minutes later by a rush of traffic in the other direction.
"Rush" is the operative word. The Hornby ferry is smaller than the Denman one, so there is no guarantee that they will all get onto the second ferry. Even on the way back, they are competing with Denman traffic, so there is still no guarantee that they will get onto the bigger ferry. Because there are two possible routes across Denman, traffic on each route races the other to get to the second ferry first. The Fire Department will no doubt be bushing up on its motor vehicle accident procedures soon.
Speaking of the Fire Department, they have cancelled all burning permits for the rest of the summer. This is something that the DIVFD and other local fire departments started last year, and has been adopted by the provincial Forestry Department this year. Since most brush fires are started by human activity, and conditions get dangerously dry in the summer, it just makes sense to prohibit intentional open fires.
This weekend, we went on the Denman Island Pottery Tour. Most of the island's potters keep their studios open to the public all year round, but once a year, they put on an organized tour. The quality of the work is consistently high, and some of the potters have international reputations. Wendy's friend and former co-worker Vivian came over from Courtenay and we had a good time touring the studios. We were very well-behaved, and only bought a few pieces more then we intended to. (The photo, I hasten to add, is of a studio display, not of our own purchases!)
I have finished staining the deck, aside from a bit of trim, and we are very happy with the result. I haven't posted a photo of the completed project, so here is a long shot of the house from out in the meadow, showing both sides of the new deck and the new roof over the east side. The low, boxy structure to the right of the house is the woodshed.
The meadow is at its best right now. In the last week, everything green has suddenly doubled in size. The grass in the meadow is now almost waist-high. All the leaves are fully out on the deciduous trees, and the conifers have sprouted big bushy masses of bright green new needles at the tips of all their branches. Most of our veggies in the garden are big enough to be distinguished from the weeds, which is a good thing, because the weeds are downright scary!
This afternoon, we went to a community birthday party for Jimmy Tait, one of the "characters" of the community. She (This Jimmy is a she) is 90 years old and still keeps one of the best gardens on the island. The community hall was packed with islanders wishing her well and enjoying stories about her.
Sorry, no Denman Diary this week. I am in Fort Saskatchewan, visiting my father.
Late this week, the weather finally started changing to a more summer-like pattern. Though we had been having a fair amount of sunshine, it is only in the last few days that it has started to feel warm.
On Friday, we participated in a broom-pulling bee. We helped with one last year, along the main road. This time, the land we were cleaning up was a recovering clearcut that is owned by the Denman Conservancy Association. It is the principal habitat for the Taylor's checkerspot butterfly, which is found in only a couple of locations on Denman Island, and nowhere else in Canada. Though some checkerspots have been seen already this year, none of us saw any during the work bee.
No butterflies, but lots and lots of broom. Scotch broom is a horribly invasive introduced species which rapidly takes over any cleared land. Because the land in question is the home of an endangered species, the land manager wants to control the broom to ensure that the plants critical to the butterfly's survival are not choked out.
We were using two "broom pullers" supplied by the Pesticide-free Committee. They are large, heavy-duty lever contraptions with jaws at the base. You hook the jaws around the base of the broom plant and haul on the handle. The jaws tighten around the stem and you end up yanking the whole plant out of the ground. At least, that is the way it works on moderate-size broom plants.
Some of the plants we were attacking on Friday were monsters. Because they had been cut back many years ago, they had regenerated with a crown at ground level that made it inpossible to lock the jaws of the broom-puller around them. We often had to dig down to expose enough root to grab onto. Even then, it often took a combined effort of one person on the puller and another levering the opposite side with a shovel to get them out. We only managed to clear about 100 metres along the edge of the road, but that area looks a lot better now.
Our garden is doing well. We have lettuce, kale, beets, parsnips and carrots growing, as well as garlic, asparagus and rhubarb. Most of our newly planted raspberries are showing signs of life, and the well-established ones are looking healthy and potentially productive. The strawberry beds are looking very good and are starting to flower. With any luck, we'll run out of frozen strawberries from last year just about the time that this year's crop starts to come in.
The deck renovation is almost finished. This week, we had a roofing crew here, waterproofing the solid floor under the covered portion of the deck. The waterproof membrane is now covered with pallets of deck boards that match the rest of the deck. The pallets are removable for cleaning. The solid sub-floor provides a dry porch for the basement door, handy when loading firewood in midwinter, and will also provide a roof for a potential greenhouse space under part of the deck.
We have replaced the old sliding patio door with double French doors. We knew it would improve the appearance of both the deck and the living room, but we were pleasantly surprised to see just how much better it looks.
All that remains is about half a day's work completing the railings around the covered portion and some trim. Oh yes, there is still all that staining to do...
Though the weather has been mostly cool and damp this week, spring continues to advance. May is when the dogwood trees flower, and most of the trees on Denman are putting on a good show. We discovered one dogwood tree on our property last year which has decided not to flower this year, but it is the exception. The dogwood flowers are big and showy, usually a good 6-8 inches across. Some of the older trees are 50 or 60 feet tall and can be covered in the big white flowers.
A couple of times, when walking "around the block", we have seen this flock of wild turkeys. There are about a dozen of them. They or their ancestors probably escaped from someone's domestic flock, but, though some no doubt end up as the guests of honour at Thanksgiving dinners, they fend for themselves and wander freely around the area.
This weekend, the Denman Island Memorial Society, the group that is planning the new "green cemetery" for the island held a planning workshop. They brought over a group of young planners from the Vancouver-based Community Studio group to help them with the exercise. Though Wendy and I didn't participate in the planning process, we did attend the presentation at which they displayed their results. The two options they presented looked well thought out and will make effective use of the space while maintaining the character of the land. We are not planning on using the cemetery ourselves, when the time comes, but we like the idea in principle.
Though we weren't directly involved in the cemetery planning, we billeted one of the young planners from Vancouver. She has just recently (as in that morning!) finished her Landscape Architecture program, a Masters degree at UBC. All the members of the group were in their twenties, and they were obviously a very talented and intelligent group.
This week, I finished assembling and painting the Stevenson screen for my weather station. It is part of an effort to improve the accuracy of my weather observations by relocating the various sensors in more suitable locations. The Stevenson screen is the white louvered box on a stick that you see at official weather stations and in the photo. Its purpose is to shield the thermometers or other sensors inside from solar radiation, in the form of both direct sunlight and heat reflected or radiated from the gound and surrounding objects. Mine will contain my temperature and humidity sensors. I still have to complete the cable installation before I can relocate the sensors.
I am also planning to move the wind sensors to a better location on one of the gable ends of the house. If you look really carefully in the same photo, you can see the new mast installation at the far end of the roof ridgeline, ready for the wind instruments.
The roof over the new deck is now finished, with its six big skylights. We are really happy with the results. We have another contractor scheduled for this week to install the waterproof membrane on the plywood floor. That will be covered with deck boards to match the other deck, and then it will be finished.
Well, almost finished. Once the contractors clean up, I will have a lot of wood staining to do, not to mention new eavestroughs and downspouts to install. Still, it should be the last of having contractors hammering and sawing around the place. The cats will be happy about that, as will Wendy and I.
The main event this week is the progress on the deck.
I mentioned last week the difficulty of finding suitable weather to stain the deck. I cancelled staining plans one day when the weather office called for showers, only to have it turn into a beautiful, dry, overcast day that would have been perfect. The next day, the forecast was exactly the same, so I went ahead and started staining, only to have it rained on with very heavy rain that night. Now I am going to have to sand out the parts that got washed out and redo them. Next time, I think I'll take my chances with too much sun.
While I was doing that, our contractor has been hard at work on the covered deck at the east side of the house. The sub-floor is in place. It is a solid sub-floor, which will have a waterproof membrane applied over it. It will be covered with a walking surface of deck boards to make it match the rest of the deck. The solid deck provides a sheltered porch for the basement door, and will allow us eventually to glaze in a portion of the space under the deck as a greenhouse for starting seedlings.
Even more exciting than the sub-floor is the framing for the roof. The outer half of the roof will consist of six skylight panels, with the rest of it being solid. It will give us a nice, sheltered outdoor space, providing some shade for the dining room without making the house too dark. With the roof framed in, we can now see where the skylight panels will go, and the effect is going to be just what we intended.
Speaking of roofs, my other project this week was putting a roof on the cat shelter. Before we started the deck project, the old cat shelter had had a roof, but that had to be removed as part of the demolition. The repositioning of the shelter on the new deck required a redesigned roof. The old roof had taken a beating from snow falling off the roof of the house - the heavy wet stuff lands like an earthquake. We have snow-stops on the house roof now to reduce the amount of snow that slides off, but still, I thought it would be prudent to design the cat shelter roof with a bit more support than the last version had. This one actually has rafters, and the beam supporting them is reinforced with extra supports.
With all the work there is to do, we are still not getting as much time in the garden as we would like. However, things are looking good there. The pear trees are in flower, and the apple blossoms are fixing to open any day now. The rhubarb is perking up after being fed last week, and the asparagus is growing fast enough that you can almost watch it grow. Our garlic got a late start - we only planted it in January - but it is doing well and looking healthy. In the photo at left, the asparagus is in the left half of the bed and the garlic is in the right half. There are chives in the foreground. Even the grapevine, traditionally the last plant to wake up in the spring, is growing leaf buds.
One of the sure signs of spring on Denman Island is the song of the Pacific tree frog. They have been singing for a few weeks now, but lately, with the warmer weather, the song have been getting much louder. People who live near wetlands say that they have trouble getting to sleep at night because it is so loud. Though the Pacific tree frog is the official sound track of any Hollywood movie with a night-time scene (especially if the film is set in the tropics), they sing every bit as loudly in the daytime. I recorded this clip on Friday as we walked "around the block", our regular 8.5 km route.
Work continues on the deck. This week, with the new concrete footings nicely cured, the posts went up for the covered high portion of the deck at the east end of the house. We have joists for the decking on that side, and expect the plywood sheets to go on today. The contractor just showed up with some big beams that look like they are for supporting the roof rafters.
I spent Friday afternoon staining the railings of the south deck. The stain is finicky about weather - you can't apply it when it is sunny or rainy. Since those are about the only weather options here, finding a day to apply the stain is tricky. I have to stain the deck boards themselves pretty soon, if the weather will allow it. I am anxiously watching the weather radar to see if the forecast showers are going to develop or not.
On Saturday, we spent a couple of hours on a permaculture work bee. We weren't actually doing any permaculture techniques, just helping someone weed their garden. It is a great way to learn about how other people manage their gardens.
In our garden, the asparagus is continuing to wake up. I counted 11 spears yesterday. Several of the plants are sending up multiple spears, so it looks like they are doing well. It will still be a year or two before we can harvest it.
Friends of ours have a horse, and were happy to have us take away some manure, which we will be using in the garden. Some plants, like the rhubarb, are such heavy feeders that you can use it directly. For the rest, we will compost it before digging it in.
People on Denman re-use and recycle just about everything. For small items like clothing or kitchen utensils, there is the Free Store, which is open one morning a week. For larger items, it is a custom to leave them by the side of the road for anyone to pick up. On our walk the other day, we saw this perfectly fine bed. It is no longer there, so apparently it already has a good home.
Spring seems to be fully here this week. The weather has turned clear and sunny, and the temperatures have started going into the low teens. Today's high was 15.5°C.
In spite of the warmer weather, there is still a lot of snow on the mountains across the water. The skiing is reported still to be excellent at Mt. Washington, just north of Courtenay. The combination of spring in the foreground and snow-capped mountains in the background makes for a fine view across Baynes Sound.
In the garden, more plants are starting to wake up. Something is growing where I seeded several veggies back in February. It is still too early to tell if it is a crop or a weed. Regardless, it is now time to plant some more seeds.
The first arparagus spears are up. We planted the asparagus as root crowns last year, and though we only had about a 50% success rate on the transplants, the ones that did grow looked healthy. We were starting to get a bit concerned that we hadn't seen any signs of them yet this spring, but the friend who gave us the roots counselled patience. Sure enough, this week, there were two spears poking up through the straw mulch. It will be another year ot two before they are sufficiently well-established to harvest, but there is nothing that can beat fresh asparagus. More patience...
Speaking of patience, there has been a slowdown in the deck construction project. The builder is getting set to install the posts that will support the high east portion of the deck. Those posts need proper footings, which he poured last Tuesday. However, the concrete needed several days to set up before it could take the weight of the posts. We should be back to full speed this week.
Though the builder was taking it easy this week, I have been busy building stuff. With the south side of the deck completed (except for the railing), I was able to re-install the cat shelter on it. It is in a much more suitable location than before, where it will not block any windows, even after I install the solid roof. The installation included building brand new tunnels between the shelter and the cat-door into the house and between the shelter and the ground-level outdoor play area. In the photo, you can see the cat-door at the far right, under the window. The tunnels, made of wire mesh, same as the shelter, run along the base of the wall on either side of the shelter. The ramp to the ground-level enclosure is just out of the picture at the left. The cats have shown no hesitation about uising the new structures, though they haven't shown much gratitude!
Today, I built a new garden gate. If you are thinking that I just did that not so long ago, you are correct. That was the back gate, from the garden out to the compost bins. Today's project was the front gate, the one we normally use to go in and out of the garden. Until now, we have been using an entrance that was designed for vehicular access. It involved moving aside a fishing net intended to keep deer out, then unhooking a length of fence and dropping it to the ground. Now, with a proper gate, we just unlatch it and swing it open, like a proper gate - much more convenient.
The shape of the gate is not a weird trick of perspective, nor is it a mistake. The existing fence posts were not vertical. I installed an extra post to support the gate, and it is vertical, since it supports the hinge side of the gate. The combination of vertical and non-vertical makes for a decidedly non-rectangular shape. We wouldn't want it to look too proper.
Yesterday, we attended a "celebration of life" for a well-known island resident, Roger Vinnedge, who passed away a couple of months ago. He had been a member of the Fire Department for many years prior to retiring, and the current members of the department turned out in uniform to honour him, including an honour guard from Courtenay. The community hall was packed with the largest audience I have ever seen there. It was literally standing room only, and the Fire Chief turned a blind eye to the hall's occupancy limit. The occasion was a fine remembrance of a well-liked member of the community, with family members, friends and neighbours sharing memories of him.
The big story this week was the storm on Friday. For the last two or three weeks, Environment Canada has been crying wolf with wind warnings every other day that turned out to be mere breezes. So, we weren't overly concerned when they issued another one for Friday. We should have been.
On Friday morning, the wind was howling, and the treetops were swaying in 30-foot arcs. We were not surprised, therefore, when the power went out at 8:30 in the morning. I spent some time at the firehall doing some bookkeeping until the power came back on at around 3:30 in the afternoon. I had only been home a few minutes, however, when the power went out again. I was pretty sure that I had seen a Hydro truck barelling towards the ferry off the island, so I was pessimistic that they would return quickly to fix the second outage. Luckily, I had lots of gas for the generator.
The power outage ended up lasting 58 hours.
I am able to run the computer off the generator, so I was able to check the BC Hydro website for updates any time I had it running. One glance at their outage map made it clear that we would not be seeing another repair crew any time soon. Most of eastern Vancouver Island was out, from Campbell River to Sooke. News reports said that about 100,000 customers were without power. Unfortunately for us, most of Denman Island had had its power restored already - when the power first came back on. The second outage was a local one, involving only our street. When they have a choice of fixing one urban circuit and getting 1000 customers back online or fixing one rural branch circuit and getting 10 customers back online, no prizes for guessing who is at the bottom of the priority list!
On Saturday, the Fire Department was called out a couple of times to deal with trees down on live power lines. For the first one, we simply put up a barricade up to keep people away from live wires. Then, we were called out for a tree that was leaning on a live wire and smoldering at top and bottom. Though there was nothing we could do as long as the line was live, it was considered an active fire, so we couldn't leave it. We eventually reduced our manpower at the scene to a two-person watch until evening, by which time rising humidity had stopped the smoldering.
Meanwhile, back at home, we had no live wires to worry about. Every few hours, I would run the generator for a couple of hours to keep the fridge and freezer cold. It also gave us running water and some lights in the evening, as well as the computer.
I spent some time salvaging wood from a tree that came down across the road, as well as cutting a tree that blocked the driveway of one of our neighbours and cutting another tree off the fence of another neighbour.
By this morning, someone saw a Hydro truck coming off the ferry and we figured that our power would be back by early afternoon, naïvely believing Hydro's projected repair time. We went for a walk "around the block", seeing the repair trucks ourselves on the way, and stopped in at the Bistro for some lunch, figuring that the power would be back by the time we got back home. It wasn't. This afternoon, we were at a meeting, and a last-minute arrival told us that she had just seen the repair crew arriving on our street. We figured that the power would be back on by the time we got back. Wrong again. By the time we got home, an hour and a half later, the crew was just getting started. It took them four hours to do a repair that would normally take less than one hour. (Trust me, we know from experience how long these jobs take!)
I suppose we should be lucky that we got a repair crew at all on Easter Sunday. It turned out that the crew consisted of an apprentice and a foreman who was teaching him how to do the work. Understandably, considering that the youngster was working on a 14,000 volt line, they were taking their time. At each step, the apprentice had to call down from the bucket what he was going to do next and get approval from the foreman before proceeding. Oh, well, at least we got the power back. Because the repairs were taking so long, we were their last job of the day. There are still a fair number of people on the island who don't have their power back yet.
In other news, the deck renovation is coming along nicely. With the south deck completed, the contractor has started on the east deck. The old one is now demolished, leaving that side of the house looking a bit bare.
Another construction project on the island is almost completed. The new medical clinic, which was moved last year and has been under renovation for six months, is completed except for some cosmetic details. They have done a superb job of it. We were able to get a sneak peek at it today: the inside is very professional, with two treatment rooms that have angled doors to permit ambulance stretchers to be rolled in and out easily. As a First Responder, I have had to squeeze stretchers into the old straight doors often enough to appreciate that feature! The interior and exterior are decorated with natural wood, including some beautiful carvings that support the front portico. It is everything that you would want a small island community's medical clinic to be, and the committee that oversaw the project can be justifiably proud of their work. Not a dime of tax money went into it.
Spring continues to be ahead of schedule. The really early flowers - snowdrops and crocuses - were a month ahead of schedule. Now, we seem to be about two weeks ahead of schedule. The cherry trees downtown are in full bloom now, as are many other flowering trees and shrubs.
Among them are the wild currants, which are one of the preferred foods of the rufous hummingbird. Wendy hung out the feeders as soon as she saw flowers on the currants. Sure enough, on Friday, we saw our first hummingbird. There are at least two of them, perhaps more, buzzing around our feeders.
On Saturday, I attended a class on year-round gardening. Some of the long-time residents on Denman Island have learned to grow vegetables all year round. "Grow" is a relative term - most vegetables are dormant in the winter - but, if you have timed their growth properly in the fall, they will be harvestable all winter long. The class covered which varieties work best here and when to plant them to ensure that they reach a suitable stage of growth or ripeness before they go dormant. We did quite well this winter, considering that we didn't know what we were doing, using the ground as our storage medium for carrots and parnips, but next winter, we hope to have a wider variety of home-grown veggies for the winter.
The water heater I wrote about last week got installed, and is now working fine. I had to get my Fire Department colleague to solder one copper connector, but I was able to do the rest of the installation myself. It was not without adventure. One of my threaded connectors was seeping a bit when I turned on the water. Not a big deal, I thought, I'll just turn off the valve, drain a bit of water and re-do it. Except that the valve would not shut off - the same valve that I had just used to shut off the water during the installation. Okay, no problem, I'll just shut off the house main valve. Uh-oh, it won't shut off either. I finally had to turn off the power to the well pump and bleed the pressure out of the pressure tank in order to fix the offending connection. While I was at it, I installed a replacement shutoff valve in the line.
This week's major effort has been the completion of the first phase of the deck replacement. While I was at work last week, the contractor completed framing the substructure of the deck, cut the boards to width and planed them. (We had a lovely big pile of shavings to line the garden pathways.) Then, on Friday, I helped him installing the deck boards - he measuring and cutting and I drilling and hammering. We got it about 85% completed on Friday and finished it this morning. This afternoon, we started demolition of the second phase of the deck, on the east side of the house.
On the weekend, I worked on some of the house systems affected by the deck renovation. I had to reconnect the rainwater catchment pipes and design some modifications to them to accommodate the new deck structure. I also installed cable to the peak of the gable for a future reinstallation of my weather instruments. I am not planning to move the instruments yet, but access to the gable end will become much more difficult once the covered deck on that side of the house is completed, so I wanted to get the cable in place now, while I still can.
On Saturday evening, we attended the final concert in this season's Concerts Denman series. It featured the trio of Sal Ferreras, Celso Machado and John Reischman, playing a latin jazz style. It was an amazing concert. They played so well together that one could assume that they practice together daily. We were surprised to learn that they hadn't seen each other since last June, and that they put together their set list on the ferry coming over here. It must be nice to be that good!
Since there are no hotels on Denman, visiting performers are usually billeted in people's homes. We were furtunate to host Sal Ferreras in our guest cottage. He is a busy man, but we did get to spend some time with him at breakfast on Sunday before he had to catch an early ferry. In addition to being the dean of a music school and keeping up a performance schedule, he was the producer and creative director of the Aboriginal Pavilion for the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
Yesterday evening, Wendy and I were invited to supper at our friends Bentley and Danni's place, followed by a collating bee. Every month, our island's monthly newspaper has to be assembled by hand. Wendy has been doing this regularly for a while, but this was my first time. It is as much a social gathering as it is a work bee, with about a dozen people, each responsible for ensuring that their page makes it into each copy of the paper, and all talking about the latest goings-on at the same time.
It is definitely going to be a good year for daffodils. Quite a few of them are flowering now and there are lots more on the way, both in our yard and all over the island. Yesterday, Wendy spotted our first tulip, under the apple trees.
In other spring garden news, I have finished weeding the strawberries and started mulching them with straw. Mulch seems to be the key to gardening here. Where the challenge is not encouraging things to grow, but rather beating back the jungle, mulch is one of the few non-toxic, labour-saving ways of dealing with weeds.
I dug a new bed in the garden that will eventually hold more raspberries. As with the strawberries, raspberries are something you can never have too many of. We really enjoyed having a freezer full of strawberries over the winter for home-grown desserts, and are looking forward to having more raspberries next year.
The really spring-like garden news is that this week I mowed the grass for the first time this season.
The major community event this week was a meeting to discuss a coal mine that is being proposed directly across Baynes Sound from us, on Vancouver Island. The proponents of the project have acknowledged that several salmon-bearing streams will be destroyed by the tailing piles, and everyone is concerned about air and water pollution which seem to be inevitable around coal mines, as well as truck traffic on the highway. The coal will be low-to-medium grade, to be burned in coal-fired generating stations in China, so the contribution to global warming makes no sense either. Knowing this government's position on such matters, we suspect that approval of the project is a done deal and that any environmental assessments will be nothing more than a rubber stamp.
The deck construction is moving along. We expect to see joists in place this week, and perhaps even some deck boards. The major event on the project was having the demolition debris, the remains of the old deck, hauled away.
This is chimney fire season. With the spring weather being warm enough not to need a lot of heat, yet cool enough to need some, people have been burning with their stoves damped down, which is conducive to forming creosote in the chimney. The Fire Department had a chimney fire callout last week and another this week. This week's callout happened just minutes before our weekly practice. We normally receive two test pages on our pagers on practice night, and a third test page is not uncommon if someone is having poor radio reception. We were rather surprised, then, when the third page turned out to be a real one!
I have started building a Stevenson screen for my weather instruments. My sensors are not in good locations right now, and putting them in a proper housing will improve the accuracy of my data. Though the sides of a Stevenson screen look like a venetian blind, you can't just use a louvered door for the side panels. Each side needs two sets of louvers, angled in opposite directions. Building them is a challenge to my woodworking skills, but the prototype turned out all right, so the design looks like it will work.
Yesterday afternoon, just after I had taken a shower, Wendy noticed that the water heater was making funny noises. When I checked it, there was a rusty trickle of water down the side and a puddle forming underneath. It appears that the leak had only been going for a few minutes, probably triggered by the temperature change from my shower. I quickly turned off the power, shut off the water and started draining the tank. Though contruction trades are one of the more popular forms of employment on Denman Island, there are no plumbers here. Plumber house calls are expensive enough at the best of times, but to bring one here from Courtenay would be outrageously expensive.
This morning, following the advice of one of my Fire Department colleagues who does appliance repair, I removed the heating element nearest the leak to inspect it, hoping that it was corroded. A bad element is easy and inexpensive to replace. Unfortunately, the element looked fine. The leak turned out to be from a bad weld on the tank. I made a quick trip into town, to Home Depot, and bought a new water heater. Believe it or not, the standard size 37 gallon tank in its box actually fit in the back of the car with the seats folded down (I guess that's why they call it a Honda Fit!), saving me the freight charges of having it delivered. Tomorrow, I have another Fire Department colleague who knows about such things coming over to help with the installation of the new tank.
We are not totally without hot water in the interim. I turned on the hot water out in the cottage, so we are still able to shower.
Owen the cat has a habit of bringing live mice into the house to play with. He doesn't hurt them and doesn't know that they are edible. This week, he did the same with a small bird. I saw him come in the cat door with something in his mouth and caught a glimpse of feathers. We made him drop it, at which point, the bird flew down to the basement to hide behind the washing machine. We were able to scoop it up into an empty margarine container that we keep handy for such purposes and release it outside, where it flew away, apparently none the worse for its adventure.
Just when we thought we could get used to the nice spring weather, Mother Nature threw a curve at us. On Friday, we had some funny-looking white stuff falling out of the sky and actually sticking to the ground. Such things shouldn't be allowed. Fortunately, the snow turned to rain after a few hours and it all melted again.
The snow was enough to make the carpenter who is working on our deck quit for the day. However, he has accomplished a lot in a week. The old deck on the south side of the house is completely demolished, and the posts are in for the new deck. If you look at my webcam, you will be able to follow the project's progress.
The project is happening in two phases: he will complete the south deck first and then demolish and rebuild the east deck. We are replacing it not a moment too soon: some of the old joists were in horrible shape. It will be nice to have a brand new, safe deck in place before the summer.
The cats are now quite used to their temporary catwalk attached to the side of the house. They aren't happy about construction noises, and they were a bit puzzled when they noticed something was missing outside, but in the evenings when things quiet down, they run in and out on the catwalk like it has always been there.
Down in the garden, I have been cleaning up the strawberry beds. There is no sign of life yet from the vegetable seeds I planted, but the garlic and rhubarb are both up and looking good.
I have already mentioned that the daffodils are starting to bloom, but there are a lot more flower buds waiting for some more warm, sunny weather. I planted a lot more daffodil bulbs last fall, so the property should look quite showy in a couple of weeks.
Today, the Permaculture Guild held another garden work bee. This time, we were doing general garden cleanup and making new beds in the garden of some friends of ours. With ten people working for a couple of hours, we cleared a large area of brambles and covered it in horse manure, cardboard and straw. By next year, with the addition of more compost and horse manure (they have their own horse), it will be ready to produce vegetables.
With the weather being marginal for outdoor work this week, I have been catching up on indoor projects. I did some enhancements for the Fire Department's website, and I finally got my well depth sensor completed. I have been taking manual depth readings of the well for a couple of years, but it was always my intention to automate the data collection. The completed sensor is not much to look at (a bit "Rube Goldberg", and, yes, the wires could do with being tied up), but it works well. I am now getting regular depth readings throughout the day, and will be able to monitor the seasonal drop in the level as we move into the dry season. Of particular interest will be the recharge rate, something I have always wondered about.
This has been a busy week, though I didn't get much accomplished in terms of projects around the place.
I had quite a few calls to fix broken computers, everything from virus infestations to setting up networks. I have yet to figure out why Microsoft has chosen to make networking home computers so difficult. There ought to be one big button that says "Network: On / Off". It shouldn't be rocket science.
I taught a two-evening class at the community school on Windows PCs for Beginners. (No networking involved!) Though the class wasn't full, there was enough interest and enough material to cover that I might offer an expanded version of it again in the fall.
The general consensus on the island is that spring is a full month ahead of normal this year. The daffodils have started blooming, something that normally happens in early April. In fact, there are flowers everywhere. The currant bushes and cherry trees are starting to bloom, and downtown there is a carpet of little blue flowers all over the lawn at the bistro.
One of our maple trees has big fat leaf buds on it, and alders all over are starting to show a blush of green as their buds develop. There are new shoots on our climbing rose, which never totally lost its leaves over the winter.
Starting tomorrow, we have someone coming to rebuild our deck. The existing deck is about 20 years old and is in rough shape. Outdoor wood here needs to be either pressure-treated or cedar because of the wet climate. This is neither; it is untreated douglas fir. Add to that the fact that it was poorly designed, with all the spans being too long, and the result is that it is becoming unsafe to walk on.
Rebuilding the deck is too big a job for me to do by myself. I can help on days when I am not working, but we will be leaving the design and most of the construction to a professional.
It will be a bit of a disruption, but it should be completed well before summer starts.
The cats are already experiencing the disruption. Yesterday, I removed their on-deck enclosure and the ramp that led to their outdoor enclosure. So that they are not totally deprived of access to the outdoors, I have built a temporary catwalk (literally) attached to the side of the house that will let them get from their cat door to the enclosure above the level of the demolition and construction. They might find it too scary to go out while there is hammering and sawing happening, but at night they will be able to go outside safely.
This week has gone by quickly.
Wendy offered to dog-sit next week for some friends of ours who have a whippet. He is a mild-mannered dog and gets along well with "his" cats at home, though he likes to chase unfamiliar cats outdoors. Neither we nor his owners could guess how he would behave with our cats. Would he ignore them because he was indoors, or would he chase them as "strange" cats? We prudently decided to have him visit for a couple of hours before committing to the arrangement.
So, on Tuesday, Elliot the whippet came for an afternoon visit. After sniffing around our house for a few minutes, he caught a glimpse of Owen. Whippets, as you probably know, are very similar to greyhounds. He went from 0 to 60 in one stride before he remembered that he was indoors and slammed on the brakes, sending a rug skidding across the floor. Owen decided to make himself scarce and ran outside, where he remained for the rest of the afternoon. Liesl was a bit more adventuresome and came out of hiding to check out Elliot, but decided against getting to know him right away.
Elliot spent the rest of his visit trying to find the cats. Although he is a sweet dog, he clearly terrified Owen, so we decided against the dog-sitting arrangement.
Later in the week, Owen had another adventure - we had to take him to the vet in Courtenay to have a bad tooth removed. He wasn't happy about being crated for the trip into town, but he was good with the vets and was fine, if a little groggy, when we brought him home. He didn't like having to eat mushy food for a couple of days, but he is back on solid food now and doing well.
On Friday, I had an appointment to visit a client to talk about setting up a website for him. We had literally just started talking when my Fire Department pager went off, calling us to a structure fire on the other side of the island. I very quickly apologized to my client and dashed off to the fire hall.
This has been a bad month for structure fires - this was the third one since the beginning of February. We had a good turnout of members and a very fast response time (eight minutes from the time of the page to the first unit arriving on scene), and the operation went smoothly, but unfortunately we were unable to save the house. Luckily, the occupants got out safely.
On Saturday, we participated in a work bee to help control English ivy on one of the Conservancy properties on Denman Island. English ivy is an invasive alien plant that was imported for horticultural use, but escaped. Half a dozen of us spent a few hours hacking and cutting the ivy on the bank above the beach. There is no way to eradicate it completely - it is simply too entrenched - but the Conservancy Association is required to try to keep it under control. The most important thing is to keep it from spreading any farther. It spreads by vines that sneak under existing vegetation to pop up 30 or 40 feet away from where it started. You pull on one rather small-looking vine only to find that it runs for yards and yards. We made a big pile of all the cuttings down on the beach rock where the cut pieces would find no soil to grow into.
While we were working, we were talking about the tsunami alert that had been broadcast for our area as a result of the big earthquake in Chile. British Columbia was not expected to get much of its force. The forecast for Tofino, on the outer coast was for a wave of only half a metre. They didn't bother to forecast a depth for the Georgia Basin, since the wave would expend most of its energy passing through the San Juan Islands and the southern Gulf Islands. Nevertheless, they did put all fire departments and emergency services in the area on alert. Our department's radio operator, who was one of the ivy-pullers, had to leave our group early to man the telephone at the fire hall.
Needless to say, no one detected so much as a ripple on the water.
This seems to have been the weekend for work bees. This morning, we spent a couple of hours participating in a permaculture work bee to build a hugelkultur bed for one of the island residents who is a serious gardener and orchardist. Permaculture is a gardening technique that aims to eliminate tillage as well as artificial fertilizers by preparing a bed that contains its own long-term supply of compostable material. A hugelkultur or "hugel" is made by digging a trench where the bed will be, saving the removed soil. Then the trench is filled with woody debris, such as the slash remaining after a logging operation. Other compostable material is also added. Finally, the removed topsoil is used to cover the now mounded up bed. The woody compost retains moisture and decays slowly, supplying nutrients to the crops grown in the bed.
We had a good crew of about a dozen people. The trenching work had already been done, so our job was to fill it with logs and branches. Within a couple of hours, the hundred-foot-long trench was full and ready for a machine to replace the topsoil.
Back at our own garden, I did some work blocking places where the raccoons had dug under the fence. Between the rocks that I used to block the opening and a new strand of electric fence in front of it, I don't think they will be using that access any time soon.
We have buds on most of the daffodils now, and some of them are showing colour. We expect flowers on the first ones any day now.
Now that the Olympics are over, we can finally get our sky back. For the last two weeks, the sky has been filled with military aircraft. Last Friday, they had a whole squadron of F-18s flying out of Comox. They were overhead continuously, two at a time, and the roar of afterburning jet engines was literally non-stop. Luckily, they didn't do that for the entire two weeks, but there has been more military flying than normal. For the entire duration of the Olympics, there has been an American AWACS radar plane circling overhead. It is going to be nice to enjoy the quiet now.
This week, the weather has been sunny, cool at night and warm in the daytime. We have had ground and windshield frosts, but no actual air temperatures below zero until last night the overnight low was -0.2°C, our coldest night so far this year.
The sunny weather has been great for flowers. There are crocuses blooming all over the island, and one field in the downtown area is covered with violets and little blue flowers that we have not identified. Daffodil buds are swelling and we have heard of some that are already in bloom.
With the warm, dry days, I have been working in the garden. I have been weeding and thinning the strawberry beds, which will soon be waking up, and, on Saturday, I planted several varieties of vegetables: parsnip, lettuce, beet, kale, carrot, mixed greens and chard. I might be a bit optimistic for some of them, but they will tolerate cool weather, and we are essentially frost-free already. The garden is getting good mid-day and early afternoon sun already, so soil temperatures will be starting to rise.
I have only planted one short row of each kind. I will plant more as spring progresses to produce a staggered crop. We don't want 20 bushels of lettuce to need eating all at once.
To make gardening a bit easier, I have built a much-needed back gate to the garden. Our compost bins are located at the back of the garden, outside the fence, but until now, the only gate was at the front. So taking materials to or from the compost bins involved a 100-yard trek with the wheelbarrow up and down hills. The new gate provides easy and direct access to the compost.
Some of our mornings in the last few days have been quite foggy. Yesterday, the fog at our place had burned off by noon. However, in the afternoon, we walked down the hill to the "downtown" area and saw this view of the fog bank covering all of Baynes Sound. While we were enjoying sun downtown, the ferry was blowing its foghorn all afternoon.
With the warm, moist weather of the past couple of weeks, Wendy has been transplanting baby trees. We have a surplus of young trees starting to grow in the meadow, where we don't want them, and a need for vegetation to screen a sight-line from the road. Transplanting is the obvious way to "cut two carrots with one knife."
The destination location is the old foundation for the cottage, into which we have dumped a truckload of earth. Wendy has been digging up two or three trees a day from the meadow, wheelbarrowing them to the old foundation site, and planting them along with lots of compost and leaf mulch. If even half of them survive, whe should, in a couple of years, have a good screen between the house and the road.
On Thursday, we attended a meeting held by the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL). While we have a small community library on Denman Island, it is not affiliated with the larger regional library and cannot do inter-library loans. We live in perpetual hope that the VIRL will establish a branch on Denman Island, so there was a large turnout for the meeting in the hopes that they would have something encouraging to report. Alas, they were more interested in finding out what we wanted in a perfect library. The clear response from the attending residents was that we don't much care what it is like as long as it is here.
The meeting featured a Powerpoint presentation, and would have featured a short video presentation on something-or-other, but a power failure at the height of the meeting cancelled those plans.
Surprisingly, quite a few people were unaware of the books-by mail service that the VIRL offers. Since we are considered a "remote" area - one that is not served by its own library - we qualify to get books sent through the post. It is a great service. We can go to the library's website and order the books we want. As they become available, they are mailed to us. We can keep them six weeks (twice the normal borrowing time), renew them for another six weeks, and there are no overdue fines if we are late getting them back. When it is time to return them, there is a prepaid shipping bag in which to send them.
This weekend, we drove down to Victoria for a short getaway. It was a chance to do a bit of shopping at Lee Valley and Mountain Equipment Co-op, eat at our favourite Chinese restaurant (the Lotus Pond), and, for the first time, visit the Royal B.C. Museum.
The museum had a special exhibit on the Coast Salish people, the native people of the Strait of Georgia and Puget Sound area. The exhibit is only there for another three weeks, so we were anxious to see it. We really enjoyed it, and it gave us a better appreciation of the art and culture of the people of this area. A specialty of the Salish culture is basket-weaving, and they had numerous examples of several different styles of baskets, mostly woven from cedar bark. Their art is recognizably "west coast", but is quite distinct from the better-known Haida or Kwakiutl art.
After seeing the special Salish exhibit, we saw most of the museum's permanent First Nations collection. While photographs were not permitted in the special exhibit, non-flash pictures are permitted in the permanent collection. We have still only seen a fraction of the museum, so we will likely be back to see more of it before too long.
We stayed at the James Bay Inn, which is located on a quiet residential street, only a 15 minute walk from downtown Victoria. It is an old building, with floors that tilt in odd directions, but nicely renovated. Since one of the things that we find most objectionable about cities is the noise, we were impressed by how quiet the location was.
Victoria has a reputation for being the "banana belt" of Canada, and this time of year is the best time to appreciate that. For all the bragging that I have been doing about how far along our flowers are here on Denman, everything is a couple of weeks ahead of us in Victoria. The cherry trees are all in full bloom, and there are all kinds of flowers blooming in people's gardens.
The fine early spring weather has continued this week. The temperatures have continued to be moderate, and we have had a mix of sun, cloud and rain.
I recently did a study of the length of the frost-free period on Denman Island over the years, using a combination of my own records and records from Environment Canada. The growing season between the last spring frost and the first fall frost has increased from about 165 days in the early 1960s to about 230 days now. Since that is quite a change, I double-checked by looking up the same information for the Comox Air Force Base, where the observations are made by professionals. The trend there is not quite as drastic, but shows the same overall tendency.
This year, we stand a very good chance of increasing the growing season substantially. So far in 2010, we have not yet had a frost!
All that fine growing weather means that the spring bulbs are doing very well. There are violets blooming downtown and in our garden. The snowdrop buds are open, we have lots of crocuses coming up, and the daffodils have put on a major growth spurt. We even have flower buds on the daffodils already! Downtown, Wendy noticed a Forsythia and what is probably a flowering almond in bloom.
On one of her walks, she also noticed this group of Muscovy ducks waddling along the road. According to people in the area, they appear to be feral ducks that have just picked that section of road to take up residence. I came by that way in the car a day or two later and they were still there. They have a rather lackadaisical attitude towards traffic safety and refused to get out of the way of the car. I ended up having to drive around them.
On Tuesday afternoon, the fire department was called out to a garage fire. It was our first structure fire in a year, and for many of our rookie members, their first ever. Our training over the past year paid off, and we worked well together as a team to put it out. It was rather exciting, as there were paint cans exploding inside and loaded propane bottles stored outside. We ended up pouring 25,000 gallons of water onto it to put it out. Trust me, that is a lot of water!
One of our major headaches at the fire was traffic control. We had to close off the only road to the Hornby Island ferry just when the ferry was making its last two runs of the day. In order to let the traffic through, we periodically had to shut down firefighting operations and break down the hoses to clear the road. Luckily for the frustrated Hornby residents trying to get home, the last ferry waited for them, otherwise, they would have had to spend the night on Denman.
Our main event this week was the World Community Film Festival in Courtenay on Saturday. It is an all-day festival of documentary films. It is physically impossible to see them all, since they run five theatres at the same time, but you can rent the videos later at a nominal cost to see the ones you missed. We watched a film about three Native teenagers in Washington state who filmed their own documentary on the effect of a nearby oil refinery on their community, a film on the Sea Shepherd Society's battle against the Japanese whaling fleet near Antarctica, a documentary on the 2007 popular uprising in Burma based on clandestine video smuggled out of the country, a film on conscientious objectors in the U.S. armed forces, and a film on small organic farms in the Pacific Northwest.
The temperature has not gone below 5°C or above 9°C all week. Aside from some rain on Monday, it has been foggy and drizzly, with the odd bit of almost-sunshine all week. If it continues like this, I might give my weather station the week off. It is not like it actually has anything to report.
The garden loves this weather, though. The snowdrops that were just buds a couple of weeks ago look like they are ready to open in the next day or two. And we now have crocuses that, although not yet open, are showing their colours. That's pretty good for the end of January!
I took advantage of the mild weather to prune the apple and pear trees. We have four apple trees and two pears. Apparently, the plum trees should be pruned in June, something I only learned last year, so I left them for the time being. Our apple trees seem to produce quite consistently, but the plums had an off year last year, and the pears are very inconsistent. It felt good to get out working in the garden.
Also in gardening news, yesterday, we attended Denman's first annual Seedy Saturday. Seedy Saturday is an event held in many communities in late winter. It is a seed exchange, where anyone who has saved seeds can bring them in and exchange them for other people's seeds. There is considerable interest here in agricultural and horticultural self-sufficiency, and seed-saving is a big part of it. The idea is that seeds that you have saved yourself are more likely to be adapted to local conditions than hybrid commercial seeds that are bred for uniformity. The seed exchange encourages the preservation of rare heritage varieties that are in danger of becoming extinct.
Seedy Saturday was held in one of the classrooms of the old school building. Because this was a first-time event, they anticipated that a lot of interested people would not yet have any seeds to exchange, so several vendors of heritage seeds were invited to sell their wares. We bought quite a few seed packets (carrots, parsnips, beans, greens, and several types of herbs), and are planning to save some of the seeds from this year's harvest.
We learned at last autumn's seed-saving workshop that most vegetables are biennials, so to save seeds, you have to over-winter some of them. The west coast is one of the few areas in the country where that is possible without a greenhouse. We still have some carrots in the ground from last year, and will try to grow them to seed this year. They were bought as commercially-grown seeds, so we don't actually know if they are capable of producing seeds. It will be a bit of an adventure to find out.
Early this week, we got a call from one of our neighbours to tell us that B.C. Hydro had a work crew in our road cutting trees that were too close to the power line. She had three trees that were affected, and, since she already had a full woodshed, she offered us the wood.
Collecting "free" wood, especially when it is right by the side of the road, is a competitive sport here. Whether it is a Hydro crew or a storm that takes a tree down, anyone passing by who notices a fallen tree will go straight home to grab a chainsaw and collect the wood. The person whose property is closest to the trees (which are usually located on the public right of way) has "dibs" only by virtue of the time it takes to reach the site.
So, when she called to offer us the wood, I knew that I might only have a 15-minute head start on anyone else. I dropped everything and rushed over with my chainsaw and bucked up what I could as soon as the Hydro crew had left. Some of the logs were too big for the 20" bar on my saw, but I cut what I could and we brought it over and stacked it in our wood-splitting area. It was probably about half a cord. In the spring, once it has dried out a bit, we'll split it, along with the other salvaged wood that we have collected, and store it in the woodshed for the winter after next.
In between the gardening and the wood collecting, I made some adjustments to the bookcase that I installed last week. It was designed with a large-screen TV in mind, and this week we got the new TV to fill the space. I had to make some minor modifications to two shelves once I knew the exact dimensions. It definitely improves the look of the living room. Tonight, we watched our first movie on the new screen.
This has been a more eventful week than the past few.
I have finally completed and installed the big bookcase that I have been building. It is seven feet tall and almost ten feet wide. As you can see, it was too big to move in one piece, so it had to be moved in sections and assembled on the spot. I anchored it to the wall so that it can't topple in an earthquake. We started moving all our books into it this afternoon.
The weather has been uneventful this week. We have had fog and the odd shower, but no major storms. That could change in the next week.
With the consistently warm weather, more bulbs are up each day. Wendy took this photo of a planter full of daffodils which are well advanced in their growth. We are keeping a close eye on our snowdrops so as not to miss them when they flower. It would be fun if they would flower before the end of January, just for the bragging rights.
Last night, we attended a concert at the Community Hall featuring "Infinitus", a string trio (violin, viola and cello). They play what they referred to as "classically inspired" music - arrangements and improvisations based on classical and modern-classical music. They are an extremely "tight" group, playing very well together. They played a lot of pieces with hip-hop-style vocal rhythms over top of the instrumental music, which isn't exactly my cup of tea, but I certainly appreciated how well they did it. Their encore piece, "Ausencias" by Astor Piazzola, was the best. It was requested from the audience, sending the musicians scurrying backstage to fetch the music for it, but they played it "straight", and it was gorgeous.
Yesterday and today was the first Denman Island Table Tennis Tournament. It brought out a lot of ping-pong players from all over the island, and even a couple from Courtenay and Victoria. We watched a portion of the playoffs today. Both the Imtermediate and Master lavels were won by off-islanders. The event concluded with an Olympic-style medal ceremony, a podium for the winners made of plastic milk cartons, and even an Olympic-style flame behind them. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the Olympic copyright police don't find out about it.
The event was a fundraiser for the Denman Island Memorial Society. This is a group dedicated to creating a new "natural" cemetery on the island. The existing cemetery is full, so a new one is needed. They have a plot of land already donated and are just awaiting rezoning. What makes the project unique is that, in keeping with the prevailing environmental ethic here, all burials there will be "natural" - no embalming or wooden coffins allowed. In place of stone markers, families will be encouraged to plant trees. It will be only the second or third such cemetery in Canada, but the idea has caught on, and there is considerable support for it.
It has been a rather wet week. On Monday, we had nearly 70 mm of rain, and the week's total stands at 163 mm. Monday's storm was a continuation of the one I mentioned last Sunday. We were not at all surprised when the power went out late Sunday night. It came back on late Monday morning, only to go out again on Monday evening when another storm hit.
On Monday evening, at the height of the second storm, when the rain was extremely heavy, the Fire Department was called out for a missing person search. We were not looking forward to having to search the woods in that kind of weather. Anyone caught out in it would we suffering from hypothermia from the rain, and would be subject to injury from flying branches. Luckily, the missing person turned up safely at someone's house before the search really got under way.
Normally, on the second Monday of each month, we attend the regular meeting of the Resident's Association. However, in view of the stormy weather (and vindicated by the subsequent power outage), we skipped out of it. I suspect that many of the other regulars made the same choice. At this rate, they may not get much business done - the December meeting was scrubbed for lack of a quorum due to a snowstorm.
The Pineapple Express weather has been mild, though. We have loads of daffodil, crocus and snowdrop shoots poking up in the garden, and even a couple of snowdrops that have flower buds on them (photo at left).
My excitement for the week was going into town to have a colonoscopy done. Okay, TMI (too much information), I know. I'll spare you the details.
Interestingly, instead of using an anesthetic, they use an amnesiac drug. The subjective effect is much the same. However, from observing the other patients in the preparation / recovery ward, I knew that they were able to have conversations with the nurses during the half-hour or so of recovery. I presume that I was no different. Yet my experience was that I must have been "asleep" for that time. I "woke up" only when they told me it was time to get dressed and leave. Weird. It makes me wonder what I might have said during the recovery.
Wendy has been going up to the north end of Denman Island every Tuesday to count trumpeter swans for the local birders. She has been doing it since early December, and has yet to see a single swan. So, I decided to help her out a bit, with the aid of Photoshop.
Yesterday afternoon, the weather was quite pleasant, so I took advantage of it to cut down an old eucalyptus tree in the garden. It is a sub-tropical tree, and, although our winters tend to be mild, they were hard on it. When it snows, our snow is wet and heavy. Each winter, the snow would break and bend the upper branches, so that the top was all twisted and gnarled. It was not a pretty tree, and it shaded the garden. Last winter's long cold snap proved too much for it, and it died, unlamented, over the summer. Cutting it down was a challenge, since it had grown through the deer fence. However, it is now being added to the stack of firewood for the winter after next.
It has been another uneventful week. We had intended to drive down to Victoria this weekend, but thought better of it when the weather forecast called for rain. Neither the drive down to Victoria nor walking around downtown would have been any fun. The forecast turned out to be accurate enough that we were glad we didn't go.
We are into another Pineapple Express weather pattern. Every few days, we get another surge of warm moist air from Hawaii, giving us warm temperatures and abundant rain. We need the rain, so this is good. Right now, the wind is howling and it is raining heavily.
While working outdoors has not been high on our list of priorities this week, it has been warm enough to work in the garage. I have finished putting four coats of polyurethane onto the bookcase frames. Now I have to do all the shelves.
While the polyurethane dries, I have been working on my weather instrument network. I have some new instruments on order (Coming soon: the UV Index for Denman Island!), and I am finally going to get my automatic well depth measurement running.
While working on that, I had an inspiration. The electronic component that will allow the computer to control the air pump for the depth measurement contains four relays, only one of which is required to control the pump. The other three are just sitting there, unused. With the addition of a heavy-duty solid-state relay from my junk box, I used one of them to make a remote control for the yard floodlight on the pump house.
This area of the yard is lit by lights located on our outbuildings. We routinely need outdoor lighting there, but to get to the switches you have to walk through the unlit area. We used to have to take a flashlight to find the switches. Now, I will be able to click a button on my computer screen before leaving the house and the yard light will come on.
With the relatively warm temperatures from the tropical air (our overnight low was +7°C last night), it is pleasant to go walking around the block. The water in Pickles March is quite high. As you can see, the marsh is colourful, in a wintry kind of way.
Speaking of colourful, Wendy's pansies continue to flower. We really haven't had much in the way of cold weather this winter (touch wood) so they just keep on growing and flowering.
Welcome to 2010. It doesn't look a whole lot different from 2009 so far, so I am glad we didn't stay up until midnight on Thursday just to welcome it in. With the full moon being on New Year's Eve, we though that the dance at the Community Hall might be "livelier" than normal. As it turned out, the band turned into pumpkins at 1:00 am, and it was a quiet night by all accounts.
It has been a quiet week for us, too. I have been doing a bit of wood harvesting. There were a couple of fallen trees in the woods that I cut up and hauled to our wood chopping area. The larger trunks, I buck into rounds right in the woods, since it is the only way I can move them. Even then, some of them weighed a good 40 or 50 pounds. With smaller trunks, I cut them into manageable logs, to be bucked later.
All the wood has to be hauled by hand from wherever it lies to the nearest wheelbarrow-accessible spot. Then, it is trundled by wheelbarrow, two, three or four rounds at a time, to the work area. For the logs, I use a flatbead wheelbarrow. It works well on open ground, but is a bit dodgey trying to manoeuver six-foot logs laid crosswise on the barrow between trees.
There are a few more downed trees that I want to salvage. Once they are in, then we can buck the remaining logs and split them into stove-sized logs for stacking in the woodshed.
If we run out of wind-fallen trees, there is enough timber on the back of the lot that we should be able to be self-sufficient in firewood indefinitely. We recently received instructions in sustainable forestry, so that we have a better idea of which trees to cut to best ensure the long-term health of the forest.
Our teacher was trained by Merve Wilkinson, the famous sustainable logger on Vancouver Island. Mr. Wilkinson bought his property in 1938. Over sixty years, he has cut considerably more wood from the property than it originally held, yet he still has more standing wood than he started with.
Before I start cutting full-sized standing trees, I might have to get some lessons in that particular art.
Here is a photo of Liesl looking cute.
Copyright © 2019 by Kathleen Walker
Last modified: 04-Feb-2019