St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
Happy birthday, Canada!
This week's photos are a before-and-after pair (taken from exactly the same spot)showing how the north side of the house has been improved by our mudroom addition. The exterior work is done! Peter, our builder, is still working on the arbour at the entrance, so I'll post pictures of the entrance view once it's done.
The plasterer is hard at work sanding the seams in the basement. He has promised us that we will be able to start painting the primer coat this weekend. The flooring has been delivered and will be installed next week. It is all starting to come together!
And not a moment too soon; we are getting tired of having workmen in the house, and having all our furniture covered. For a couple of weeks there, between the moving and the construction, we had a nice living room. Still, we are getting there!
Wendy and I had a long chat with someone in the Craft Store who found out that we were newcomers, and wanted to welcome us. She said something that I found interesting because it echoed thoughts that I had had too. She said that, because so many people here have come from other places, and because no one comes here because they have to (no one gets transferred here by their employer, and no one comes to work the oil rigs), Denman Island has many of the characteristics of an intentional community. People come here because they choose the lifestyle.
I have always found the idea of intentional community appealing: people choosing to live together to put their values into practice in their lifestyle. The commune model of the 1960s and 70s didn't work very well, but many other intentional communities did. Interestingly, many long-term Denman residents are from that era.
Long-time Denman residents fall into two groups. There are the old-time residents, descendents of the original pioneer settlers from the 19th and early 20th centuries. And there are the "back-to-the-landers", most of whom came in the early 1970s. On the recent pottery and home-and-garden tours, we talked to many people who said they have lived here for "over 30 years", or that they "arrived in the early '70s". It is quite a significantly-sized group. Apparently, there were tensions between the two groups, but, over time, they have learned to co-exist. Because we all share this small island, we all have no choice but to get along with one another.
Denman Island tends to be ignored by various levels of government. If something needs doing here, a bunch of volunteers will form a committee and get it done. This is the type of community ethic that appeals to both established groups, and generates the bonds that tie the community together. Newcomers are welcomed, especially if they get involved in community events.
We have jumped in with both feet. Wendy is on the wildlife committee, and I have volunteered to be on a committee investigating the recently logged parts of the island and how the community might best play a role in their future. We are both also involved in an effort by one of the local activists to start a spay/neuter program for feral cats, and for cat owners who cannot afford to have their pets fixed.
(On re-reading, that last sentence sounds potentially misleading. It should probably read, "... and for the cats of cat owners..."!)
I think we are in the home stretch as far as the renovations are going. The plasterer finished doing the drywall, finally. He was here two weeks, and we thought he'd never be done. There is paint on some of the walls and primer on some others. Our floor and wall tiles are on site, and most of the pine flooring for the basement has been laid. Try to ignore the construction equipment in the picture, but check out the walls and the floor!
The pine flooring would probably be finished today if it weren't for a storm overnight. Our builder's sailboat got wrecked at its mooring in the storm (no one aboard at the time), so he was late getting here this morning, due to an early morning emergency salvage operation. Then, just as he got here (and just as Wendy was putting a cake in the oven!), the power went out. Wind-related power outages are a fact of life here; all it takes is one tree to come down on a power line. With no electricity, there are no power tools, so Peter called it a day and went back home to repair his boat.
The power came back after a couple of hours, and the cake turned out fine (Orange-rhubarb - Mmmmm!!).
The male hummingbirds have left. For a while, we had been filling the feeder every day. Suddenly, the level of liquid in the feeder stopped going down, and there have been no more Battle of Britain scenes outside the kitchen window. The females and young are still around, but they are not drinking nearly as much as the males did.
I'll have to get a recording of local bird calls; there are so many unfamiliar birds, and the woods are full of birdsong all the time. One of the most prominent is one that goes Twee-oo-wee-ooo-weet-weet?. After perusing the local reference book (Birds of Coastal British Columbia by Nancy Baron and John Acorn), the most likely candidate seems to be the Swainson's Thrush, whose song is described as "flute-like notes ... [that] spiral upwards in a question that lingers in the coastal forest air."
Speaking of birds, somebody has built a nest at the back of our outhouse. We are guessing swallows, but we aren't sure, and we don't want to disturb the nest or hang around any longer than necessary. The babies sure are cute, aren't they?
By the way, we do have indoor plumbing. The outhouse, though, is an island necessity. Today's power outage was short, but in winter, they can last for days. Without power, the pump in the well won't work, which means no water, and therefore indoor plumbing won't function. A generator is high on our priority list.
On the long weekend, we participated in a couple of social events. One was the annual firemen's pancake breakfast, one of the biggest events of the year. Half the island's population was there. It is a fundraiser for the volunteer fire department, which, thanks to events like this, is very well equipped.
The other event was billed as a "garden party". No, not the kind where you get dressed up to go and sip cool drinks, gossip and talk about dahlias. This was a work bee to help one of our local organic farmers. In an effort to make organic produce more competitive with factory-farmed produce, there is a group here that volunteers to help out once a month at various organic farms on the island. We pull weeds, turn compost, and do any of the other 101 odd jobs that need doing on a farm or market garden. The owner gets to play foreman for a day, directing the volunteers to whatever job needs doing next. It is one way to help ensure the survival of this island's unique culture.
The exterior of our front entrance is now complete. The pergola is ready for some kind of vine to clamber over it. Some varieties of jasmine and clematis are shade-tolerant, so we might plant something like that.
Our builder is also a designer, and one of his more interesting ideas was to make the ramp portion of the entrance look like a gangplank by using rope for part of the railing. This week, we went out and got some manila hemp rope for the gangplank. I taught myself how to make an eye splice (amazing what you can learn on the Internet!), and made four of them to attach the ropes to rings on the posts. It looks very nautical. Not bad for a landlubber, eh?
Indoors, work on the downstairs bathroom is agonizingly slow. The special cement required for the in-floor heat dries much more slowly than Peter expected, so that operation is dragging on. The heating pad has to be embedded in several layers, each of which has to set before the next one can be poured. We are hoping that one more pour will do it.
The main basement room, which will house the laundry and the woodstove, is nearing completion. The pine floor and the slate hearth (photo below) for the stove are installed. We really like the look of the slate. I still have to sand and finish the pine, seal the slate, and do a bit more wall painting.
So, what else have we been up to besides renovations? Um, not much this week! Most days we go for a walk downtown, "downtown" being the name Denman Islanders use for the area near the ferry dock and the general store, where most of the businesses and community resources are located. It is a 15 minute walk down the hill from our house.
There is quite a good library at the community hall, and, television reception being what it is, we always have a couple of books on the go. Some areas of the island are served by cable TV, but our street isn't one of them. Most people who want TV here have a satellite dish. I suppose that, if you put an old-fashioned rooftop TV antenna on a 120-foot tower to get it above the trees, you might get CBC. However, with only amplified rabbit-ears, we get only one very snowy channel - CITY - which doesn't seem to have much worth watching. There is a decent video rental place downtown, and of course there are movies at the seniors' hall. Last week, we watched Seven Samurai there, a true classic.
Near the downtown area is a farm that belongs to one of the pioneer families. They have a produce shack where they sell vegetables fresh from the garden. Since we haven't had time to get our own garden operational this year, we sometimes go there on our walks and get lovely fresh lettuce, carrots or beets.
Another week, another week closer to completion of the renovations. I've been sanding and staining the basement floor: three coats of very stinky stain, but one which will look great and will match the colour of the floor upstairs. I still have to lay the lino in the mudroom. Peter has laid the floor tiles in the bathroom, and still has grouting to do. But, we could have it all finished by the end of next week (he said, hopefully).
The big event, once the floor was finished, was getting the washer and dryer moved into the basement. Yes, indeed, no more weekly trips to the laundromat in Courtenay! A friend owed me a favour, so I got him to help me wheel the appliances from the garage, where they've been sitting in their cartons for over two months, to the basement. I still have to hook up the vent for the dryer, but that is not critical since the weather is warm and dry right now and we can use the clothes line. The washer, however, is ready to go. "Yippee!" said Wendy.
As I've mentioned before, this island runs on volunteer committees, and I attended my first committee meeting this week. This committee is tasked with investigating possible community uses for a big parcel of land that was logged a few years ago. Rumour has it that the prospective buyer will offer the community some of the land in exchange for zoning changes. The idea of the committee is to avoid being taken by surprise if such an offer is made. I figure it will be a good way to learn the local geography, while helping to make a contribution to the community.
There is another community resource right at the end of our street, on the "main highway" that connects the two ferries. It is known as the "graffiti wall". It is a kind of community notice board: people paint notices of upcoming events, congratulatory messages for loved ones on significant occasions, or just artwork. Interestingly, people interested in defacing the wall, in the style of big city back alleys, tend to do so only on vacant panels, and their efforts are covered over promptly. It's just a better class of graffiti than we are used to.
We have a busy weekend coming up. In addition to all the little renovation jobs, there is a studio tour: an opportunity to see various artists and craftspeople in their work spaces. And, I have some homework to do for a job interview next week.
Finally, our construction is drawing to an end! Peter, our contractor, has finished his work and was doing site cleanup today. We have washed our first loads of laundry in our new front-loading machine.
There are still quite a few jobs to finish, but I will be finishing them up myself. On the list today were plumbing the sink in the new bathroom, and grouting the tile floor. (Those chores are the reason that the Diary update is late today.) Tomorrow, installing the toilet and some closet doors. Next week, I have to grout the slate hearth for the woodstove. There is still some painting and staining and a bit of electrical work to complete.
I installed the vinyl flooring in the mudroom this week. I actually managed to do it in one piece without any seams. It looks pretty good, don't you think? With any luck, I'll be able to post some completion pictures for the rest of the project in the next week or two.
My job interview went pretty well. It was for a session teaching position in Computer Science at the local college, replacing a permanent teacher who is taking a year's leave. I won't know until a week or ten days from now if I got the job.
We are starting to get well known here on Denman Island. We have made it a point to go to meetings and do some volunteering. A couple of times recently, someone has come up to us and said, "I see you two everywhere!" We've had to point out that it is a temporary thing. Once we start working, we'll have to cut back on some activities. Still, it is nice to have the opportunity right now to get involved, and nice that we are getting known.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 20-May-2013