St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
This week's photos are of our plum and apple trees. We are getting a small bowl of plums every few days. We have to remember to check them regularly, since they don't stay on the tree long once they are ripe. The wasps get the windfalls.
Our Gravenstein apples are abundant, but not very healthy. We have picked a few, but most look very unappealing. However, our other apple trees, of unknown variety, are doing really well, with lots of purplish-red unblemished fruit (photo below). We'll have to check them frequently so as not to miss the best time for harvesting. They're getting close now.
I am busy cramming for the course I am teaching at the college starting next week. They told me in the interview that I wouldn't have to develop the curriculum, but they have changed textbooks, and all the course materials are still for the old texts. It's worse than developing a new course from scratch, because I have to get rid of or reorganize the old materials before I can add the new stuff. In effect, the only curriculum I have to go on is the one-paragraph course description in the calendar! And, of course, at least the first couple of weeks of the syllabus have to be ready by next week. I'm not sure they're paying me enough for this!
On Wednesday, we got an email that a visitor to the island, staying with a relative, had gone missing. What followed was an interesting demonstration of what this community is like. We (and many other islanders) called a central number given in the email to register ourselves as potential volunteers. For most of the day, the professionals - firefighters, RCMP, search and rescue - did the searching. However, late in the afternoon, we got two phone calls: would we be able to drop off some food at the firehall for the searchers, and would we be available to search in the evening? By seven o'clock, more than 50 civilian volunteers had gathered outside the firehall, equipped with hiking boots and flashlights. There, we were assigned into mixed teams of professionals and volunteers.
Our group of ten - six civilians, two firefighters and two search-and-rescue personnel - spent two hours in the rapidly darkening evening searching the woods in an area the missing man was known to be familiar with. The SAR people had us spread out in a line-abreast formation, combing the heavy underbrush for anything that looked out of place. It was important not to miss any part of the terrain, so we were clambering over logs, looking under them, and shining our flashlights into every thicket of ferns.
After thoroughly covering an area of no more than 100 metres square, it was pitch dark. Rather than risk injuries among the searchers, they had us switch to searching the margins of the access road. The group was split into two groups of five, each in single file on opposite sides of the road. The front person in each group was responsible for navigating the group along the edge of the road, while the others probed the woods on their respective sides with their flashlights. It was frustrating to know how little area we could cover, but useful in that we could positively rule out his being in the area we did cover.
Today, we heard the good news that the missing person was found alive and well this morning. Luckily, this is a climate where a night in the woods is usually survivable even by someone not specifically equipped for outdoor survival. However, with an area the size of Manhattan, most of which is covered in dense forest, Denman Island is a place where someone who was lost could remain hidden for a long time.
I was impressed by the efficiency of the unofficial communication network by which the community was mobilized. A handful of people appointed themselves as communications centres and others relayed messages. The number of volunteers was remarkable for such a small community. Even the SAR people, who are used to searches like this, commented on the size of the turnout, and that was before they knew that the population base was only 1200 people.
In other good news, our cat spay-and-neuter group is in the process of incorporating, with the aim of becoming a registered charity. The first step, registering our name, is done, so we are now officially members of the Denman Island MEOW Society.
The big event this past week was the Blackberry Fair, on Sunday of the Labour Day weekend. There was a road race (running) in the morning, followed by a parade through "downtown" Denman (all two blocks of it), a vegetable and craft contest, vendor booths, and musical entertainment. For the first time in 18 years, according to one long time resident, it rained on the parade and the fair.
We spent most of the day manning the Denman Island MEOW booth, selling raffle tickets, cookies, basil and necklaces (hey, anything for a buck) to raise funds for our spay and neuter program. We had a really good response, raising enough that we can afford the next clinic. We have six cats at the vet today, and another clinic scheduled for two weeks from now.
This weekend, we are babysitting a kitten for a friend who is going out of town for a couple of days. She came from a litter that one of the feral cats at the community hall had recently. They are still trying to find a home for her. We'd adopt her ouselves, but we don't really want a kitten. Since kittens are relatively easy to find homes for, we'd rather wait until a cat that is harder to adopt needs a home if we are going to adopt one at all.
I started work at my teaching job this week. It was a bit of a hair puller, trying to get online access to the college so that I could contact the students, but I think it's going to work out all right.
This photo is of a forest gnome I found in the woods. There are still quite a few old(ish) growth trees, ones that were probably too small to cut back in the 1920s. Now, they are the largest trees on the island, scattered here and there throughout the forests. In the most fertile regions of Denman Island, a douglas fir can grow two feet per year.
I probably didn't stand a chance.
That "weekend" of cat-sitting seems to have turned into something a bit more permanent. The kitten's foster parent couldn't take her back. Would we mind keeping her until we find a permanent home for her? Believe it or not, I actually saw this coming.
So now we are the proud (foster) parents of a four month old kitten. She is a bit shy but is gradually getting more confident. She loves to play, and she is very good at hide-and-seek. Quite incredibly good, in fact. She managed to stay hidden so well on Monday that we thought she must have escaped from the house because she was nowhere to be found.
We were expecting her previous foster parent that evening, ostensibly to pick her up, but as it turned out to ask us to keep her. We were worried how we were going to explain losing her. She was quite understanding though, and assured us that the kitten was probably just hiding. Sure enough, she was hiding behind the dryer. I know that she hadn't been there five minutes earlier. Since then, we have discovered some of her other hiding places: on top of a wicker hamper under the bed, behind the stereo.
Since she is going to be with us for a while, she needs a name. We are calling her Liesl. (Someone suggested Heidi, because she loves to hide!)
Last weekend, we went to another "garden party" work bee to help organic farmers. A large group of volunteers spent a couple of hours weeding, watering and transplanting grape vines. It will be a few years before it is a producing vinyard, but I'm looking forward to sampling their first vintage.
One thing that has been really noticeable since Labour Day is the reduced amount of traffic on the island. The bulk of the traffic on our main road is heading to or from Hornby Island, and, in the summertime, consists mostly of tourists. Most of them have left now, and the traffic is a lot quieter.
Hornby Island has a tradition called the "Wave Off". For the last ferry off the island at the end of the Labour Day weekend, the residents all go down to the ferry terminal and wave to the departing tourists. While the tourists probably see it as a friendly gesture, and while many residents are dependent on tourist dollars, the truth is that the Wave Off is a gesture of "good riddance".
It is not just the Hornby traffic that is reduced now. There are quite a few summer cottages on Denman, so our population reduces quite noticeably once summer is over. There is less traffic on the roads (you might have three cars pass you on an hour's walk instead of six!), "downtown" Denman is less congested, and there are less dreadlocked teenagers hanging about the general store. Passing motorists are friendlier and more likely to wave at you, since the assumption is that anyone here after Labour Day is a resident and is going to be around all winter.
Speaking of downtown, I have put together a virtual walking tour of downtown Denman.
Last weekend, we ferried over to Hornby Island to visit their fall fair. It is held in a spectacular setting, a farm field with a view down to the Straight of Georgia. The weather, luckily, was good: sunny but not hot. The fair is quite a bit bigger than Denman's fair and it was definitely worth the visit. There were a lot of craft booths, a quilt raffle, and flower and vegetable contests. The picture below is of one of the baskets entered in the contest. They hadn't yet been judged, so I can't tell you if this one won, but it was certainly spectacular.
Also on the weekend, we attended the first vegan pot-luck dinner of the fall season. These are fun social events, with the added benefit that we can eat anything on the table. They are well attended - there were about 30 people at this one. There is usually an educational component, in this case a film about genetically modified foods.
On Tuesday evening, on honour of my birthday, we were treated to dinner by our MEOW Society friends, Fireweed, Mike and Suzanne. It was a special event, a vegan dine-out night organized by the local (Comox Valley) Earthsave chapter. The meal was amazing, an opportunity for some local chefs to show off their talents. There were about six courses, but unfortunately there were no printed menus so I don't remember what all we had! I do remember that the main course featured chanterelle mushrooms freshly foraged from the forest, and the dessert was avocado chocolate truffles with hot peppers. Yum!
As I write this Thursday evening, Wendy and I have just returned from successfully trapping a feral cat behind the bakery for the MEOW Society's spay/neuter clinic in the morning. It's always a challenge to see if we have the money and the cats to hold another clinic. The money is actually more predictable than the cats, since we never know until the night before or even the morning of the clinic which cats we will have.
On Sunday, we went for a hike through some of the recently-logged land at the north end of the island. There is a plan to develop some of the land in exchange for donating the rest of it to the community, and the hike was an effort to increase community awareness of what is involved. It was an enjoyable afternoon, and we learned a lot about Denman's geography. The photo at right is of one of the wetlands known as "Railway Marsh". It is named for a logging railway that ran through the area in the early part of the twentieth century.
(The reason the picture is black-and-white is that I had switched the camera to black-and-white mode for another project, and had forgotten to switch it back. This picture is probably better in black-and-white anyway.)
We spent a large portion of the previous day, Saturday, dealing with a feline emergency. No, our kitten is fine. But some idiot had dumped a number of cats and kittens at the recycling centre. It took a while to determine what the situation was, because the people who found them were no longer there, but eventually we determined that they had been there since Wednesday evening, and that there were seven kittens and three adolescent cats. Although there was no sign of a mother cat, it was clear from the fact that the unweaned kittens were still pretty healthy in spite of having survived for two days and three nights, that the mother must be nearby.
Of course, Saturday morning at recycling is a very busy time, with hundreds of people coming and going, and lots of noise. Although the kittens were wrapped up in blankets (from the Free Store) in a cardboard box, all the other cats, especially the elusive mother were nowhere to be found. It fell to us (as the MEOW society and therefore by default the "cat experts") to tell people that no, they could most definitely NOT take a kitten home with them today, that they needed their mother right now.
After the recycling centre closed for the day, we bundled the kittens up in their box, hid them near where they were first discovered, and left food out for the mother. We spent a nervous night hoping that the mother really was around (the second-hand account of their being discovered Wednesday night being our only evidence) and that she was not too badly scared by the busy-ness of Saturday morning to return and feed them.
Thankfully, Sunday morning, not only were the kittens still there, but also the three adolescents. And, best of all, the mother was in the cardboard box nursing the kittens! We have now arranged an emergency clinic so that the adolescents can be "fixed", and someone has come forward volunteering to be a foster home for all of them.
Sometimes, we are tempted to expand our spay and neuter program to include certain humans who are too stupid to be allowed to reproduce!
On Monday, my brother Adrian, who is a pilot with Transport Canada, was flying a "routine training mission" in this area, and took his camera along. Here is a photo he took showing our house just left of centre, with its roof reflecting sunlight and "downtown" Denman in the background.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 6-May-2013