St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
Holy cow, it's August already!
For a change, the lead picture this week isn't renovation-related. It's a cute little bambi that was grazing in our meadow. We already had a mother bring twin fawns into the yard last week for our first glimpse of this year's young, but this time I was able to grab the camera. The mothers are quite skittish when they have their kids with them. Normally, I would have moved to a good vantage spot to take the picture. However, as soon as I opened the door, she started to move away, and of course took the young one with her. So, I didn't dare try to get any closer, and the photo is a little blurry.
Last weekend, we took a day off from renovations to go to a large craft fair in Comox. We went on Sunday, figuring that the middle day of the long weekend would have the least ferry lineups. Well, wouldn't you know it, it poured rain! The crafts were good though, worth the trip. We could easily have brought back a carload of beautiful glassware, sculpture, paintings, etc. However, we restrained ourselves.
Afterwards, we drove to the historic mining town of Cumberland, which is not far from Courtenay. The mines have long closed, but the town, while a bit seedy, is far from dead; they are marketing their history. The main street has not changed much since the mining days, and many stores have signs out front showing photographs of their premises then and now. There are benches made out of old mine ore cars cut in two lengthways. There is a very nice art gallery with some lovely (and pricey!) paintings and sculptures, and several antique shops. An old church has been converted into a major coffehouse/music venue. Next time, I'll take the camera.
Denman Island is a very creative place. That creativity extends to innovative road signs and road sign graffiti. Here are some of the more interesting road signs on the island. If you look carefully at the "falling rock" sign, you'll see that one of the rocks isn't a rock. The inset shows a magnified view of it: a little skier!
A few weeks ago, I mentioned a "garden party", where we did some chores to help out an organic farmer. One of the chores was to prune a huge fig tree. (Yes, figs grow here!) We took one of the clippings home with us, cut it into several pieces and planted them. This week, two of the cuttings are growing leaves! Yippee!
I am keeping busy with painting, grouting, etc. The downstairs bathroom is almost usable. All the painting and tile work is finished, and by the time you read this, the toilet should have been installed. The last remaining big project is to build shelves for the mudroom closet. We have some leftover cedar boards from the exterior work which I will use for the shelves. New cedar smells heavenly!
Expect some nice house pictures next week!
All the construction debris is cleared up, all the painting is done, and all the baseboards are in place. (Okay, there are still a few little bits of electrical work to finish, as you can see in the second picture.) We are very pleased with the results, and can finally start enjoying the new space. The mudroom will come in very handy in the winter, and we are already finding the laundry room and second bathroom very convenient.
Last weekend, we tried to go to the Comox Airshow, out at the Air Force base. So did 30,000 other people, and there seemed to be some problem processing people at the gate. We were in stop-and-go bumper-to-bumper traffic for over an hour and barely covered one mile. A mile-long line of cars consists of, at most, 260 vehicles, so that is the number of cars they were admitting per hour. With about 15 minutes until show time, it was obvious that, not only would we not get in to see the start of the show, we might only get in in time to turn around and start leaving. We bailed out of the lineup and ended up doing grocery and hardware shopping instead.
It is really, really dry here. The rain at the craft fair that I complained about last week was confined to Vancouver Island. Denman Island barely got a sprinkle, and that sprinkle was the only precipitation we have had for a month. A small fir tree that we transplanted a couple of months ago (and about which we were gloating only last week) has suddenly died on us. Maple trees are starting to change colour and drop leaves due to the dryness. We are trying to be as frugal as possible with our water use, knowing that our well has been known to dry up if used heavily in the dry season. There are showers in the "weather guess" (a.k.a. forecast) for next week, but the real rain won't begin until October.
Last night and this morning, we participated in a cat roundup. Denman Island has a large population of free-roaming domestic cats, both owned and feral. A small group of people, including ourselves, has started a project to spay and neuter as many of them as possible, fully subsidized for the ferals and partially subsibized for cat owners with low incomes. Today was our first clinic, so we spent a couple of hours last night monitoring a trap to try and catch one of the feral cats. Our trap didn't catch any last night, but we returned this morning and caught one. Altogether, the group transported ten cats to town this morning, and there are now ten fewer breeding cats on the island. Tomorrow, we will be at the weekly market soliciting donations for the next roundup.
P.S. I have added some before and after pictures of our completed renovations.
I guess I should be careful what I wish for. Last week, I was complaining about the lack of rain. On Tuesday night, it started raining about supper time. Not just a few summer sprinkles, but a veritable monsoon that continued all night without letup and ended about breakfast time on Wednesday. It refilled our cistern to overflowing, settled down the dust, and rejuvenated all the vegetation. Hopefully, it topped up people's wells too. It was just what we needed, and you couldn't ask for a better-mannered rainfall, coming entirely at night.
Our fig tree cuttings are coming along rapidly (photo). Each of them has several leaves. The figs from this variety are big and green, and quite tasty. Someone told us that their one-year-old sapling only four feet tall produced several figs, so we could be enjoying our first home-grown figs next summer.
Our apple trees will neeed some work next year. They are too close together and are in desperate need of pruning. The two trees of Gravensteins are not doing well. A pity, since Gravensteins are our favourite apple-pie apples. This year, the crop will go mostly to the deer. We have one tree of August apples, which we have started picking, and one tree of an unknown variety, possibly Kings, which look healthy and abundant, and which should be ripe in a few weeks. We also have two plum trees, the fruit of which are starting to ripen. This morning, I had home-grown blackberries on my porridge. Yum! I harvested about a pound of poppy seeds yesterday, which Wendy will use in baking.
For our entertainment yesterday, we attended a meeting of the Ferry Advisory Committee, which was learning about B.C. Ferries' plans to upgrade the terminals at both ends of our local ferry route. The apron at the Denman terminal only holds about eight cars, compared to the ferry's capacity of 50 cars, so a normal load required 42 cars to wait in the driving lane of the access road. Summer overloads mean that traffic is often backed up through the main downtown intersection. Vehicles wanting to drop off or pick up foot passengers have to drive down the hill in the oncoming lane, past the waiting cars, hoping they do not meet someone else coming up the hill. It is an accident waiting to happen. So, we got to learn all about the plans to expand the apron to hold up to 50 cars, and hear other islanders' concerns about that and various other ferry issues. Public meetings are great entertainment!
In other news, I have been offered a part-time teaching position in Computer Science at the college in Courtenay. Yay! Now I'll be a real absent-minded professor!
This has been an interesting week for misadventures!
I went down to the garden to pick some plums. When I came back to the house to unload them, I had every intention to go back for something else - to check on the apples, I think. However, I got sidetracked. Next morning, I went down to the garden and discovered to my horror that the gate was open. Obviously, I had not closed it the previous evening. For a moment, I hopefully thought that maybe the deer hadn't noticed the open gate, but I didn't really believe it. Sure enough, there was fresh deer poop in the garden. They had nibbled several branches of the grape and kiwi vines. They had also eaten several of the lower branches of the pear tree, including four of our five pears. The photo shows our one surviving pear (centre). Note how the lower branches are defoliated!
Then, on Monday, we noticed that one of our transplanted pine trees was looking stressed from the heat and dryness. Since it is located uphill from the rainwater cistern, it made sense to use a hosepipe with well water from the pumphouse, rather than to use rainwater. I set up the hose under the tree, intending to let it run for 20 or 30 minutes. Two hours later, Wendy came out to the garage where I was working and told me that we had no water. Drat!
Not knowing much of the technical details of our water system, I called Peter, our builder, for advice. He told me to check for a little electronic box with a red or green light in the pumphouse. No such box. Apparently, that little box would have been a device to protect the pump from overheating if it runs out of water. Without it, he said, it was likely that our pump had burned out. Or, if we were lucky, there might be some other protective device, and the pump might have switched itself off in time. In that case, we would just have to wait for the water level to recover.
It being nearly supper time, I went down to the general store to get a five-gallon jug of water for drinking, brushing teeth, etc. Then I fetched a couple of buckets of rainwater for flushing the toilets. We figured we'd leave the well with the power turned off until morning for the level to recover.
So, first thing the next morning, I went out and reset the breaker on the pump. Nothing happened, just a trickle of residual water from the pressure tank. Double drat!! I had visions of having to get a well contractor in from Courtenay to replace the pump. $$$!
Before doing that, I put in a call to Tom, our local plumber, leaving a message explaining our situation and asking for help. Within half an hour he was here. After a couple of minutes poking around the pumphouse, he pointed to a nondescript little box with pipes and wires coming out of it and said, "You're in luck!" The little device is a low-pressure cutout switch, designed to protect the pump in exactly our circumstances. It is a low-tech equivalent of the electronic device Peter asked about. As soon as it detects that the pump is sucking air, it pulls the plug on the whole system. He had me turn on the power while he held a little reset lever for a minute and a half, and we watched as the pressure gauge slowly climbed back up to normal. Disaster averted!
You know the best part? Tom didn't even charge us for the house call! I love this place!
Needless to say, we are being very careful of our water now. We take our showers at different times and wait a few hours before doing laundry. No more watering of trees from the hose; a bucket of rainwater will have to do. Today, I picked up a little valve to install on the showerhead that will let me shut off the water while I lather up, without having to fiddle with the temperature when I turn the water back on. For next year, we are going to look into getting a well water cistern installed.
Wendy had her interview today for a job in the mental health section at the Air Force base. Keeping our fingers crossed!
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 20-May-2013