St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
On Friday evening, we attended a performance of Stravinsky's Petrouchka at our local community hall. I'm not really into ballet, but it seems a shame not to support art events when they come to the island. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it. We had front-row seats and were able to see the expressions on the dancers' faces. It is mostly a kids' story, but it seemed to be enjoyed by both young and old.
The following morning, we had our coldest morning so far this season, going down to -1.5°C overnight. I actually had to scrape frost off the windshield before going to the recycling depot!
My big project for the weekend was disinfecting the well. The theory is simple - dump a bunch of bleach down it - but the whole process took the better part of two days.
First, the logistics. We had to get a couple of gallons of bleach and enough bottled water to last the couple of days that the well would be out of action. We got a big 5-gallon jug for drinking and washing. For flushing the toilet, the plan was to use rainwater. However, our rainwater cistern has no provision for drawing water directly from the outlet, and I didn't feel like lugging buckets up from the garden hose. So the first order of business was to modify the cistern outlet to install a faucet. I rigged it in such a way that I can fill the overflow barrel from the faucet: in summer, we can water the garden from the barrel and thereby ration the water to use only 25 gallons at a time.
With our buckets of rainwater standing by, I dumped the bleach down the well. You have to run each faucet until you smell the bleach, then let the system sit overnight. The time consuming part is the next day, when you have to flush the well and the entire system without letting any bleach get into the septic system. I rigged a hosepipe to drain the water into an area of the property where we don't care if vegetation gets killed, and ran it until the well went dry (and recovered) three times. Figure half an hour to drain the well each time and an hour for it to recover, three times. Finally, I flushed each faucet into a bucket until the whole system ran clear and odour-free.
Doesn't it make you city folk appreciate that all you have to do is pay your utility bills in order to get clean water? Cleaning the well is just one of the facts of rural life, though. We are lucky that our water is naturally free of minerals and odours. Some wells on the island smell like the Sulphur Mountain Hot Springs.
On Tuesday morning, we woke up to the lack of an alarm clock. We had been planning a trip into town and had set the alarm for 6:30. No alarm clock; no nightlight; hmmm: no power! A quick check out the window showed 20 cm of wet snow covering everything. A bit of snow had been forecast, maybe 4 or 5 cm. Luckily, I had heeded the warnings of local residents, and I had moved the car up to the head of the driveway - it would never make it up the driveway hill in heavy snow. Not that it mattered; a trip into town was out of the question.
While Wendy made a fire, I shovelled several tons of wet snow off the deck. In order to call BC Hydro to report the power outage, I first had to find a phone that didn't need electricity. We have one in the basement, but its dialling buttons turned out to be kaput. So I had to trek over to the garage for the remaining phone. We made breakfast on the woodstove - pan-fried toast and tea - and listened to the weather and road reports on the hand-cranked radio.
Luckily, the power was restored to the island by 8:30, so we were able to shower, though bringing the pump back online meant one more trip out to the utility shack.
And to think that, just a couple of days ago, I was bragging about how we "didn't have to shovel it!"
Last Friday, we were all set to into town early for an appointment. However, as we joined the back of the ferry lineup, a BC Ferries worker was making his way along the line of cars, talking to each driver. They don't normally do that, so it didn't look like good news. Sure enough, when he got to us, the word was that there was a mechanical problem with the dock, and it would be at least a two-hour wait. We pulled out of line and went home to cancel the appointment. The ferry resumed operation with temporary repairs to the dock a couple of hours later, and we were at least able to get in all our other errands.
(A hint about ferry lineups: always leave yourself enough room to pull out of line! You can tell the tourists, because they don't know this and pull into line bumper-to-bumper. That and they always start their engines when the first car moves instead of waiting until the vehicle two cars in front of them moves.)
Last weekend was the annual Christmas Craft Faire. Both the Community Hall and the Seniors' Hall were crammed full of craftspeople selling their wares. They allow a limited number of non-profit organizations there, and the MEOW Society was among them. We took turns staffing the booth, selling raffle tickets. The raffle sold out, generating about $1000 for the society.
My big activity this week is the First Responder's course for the Fire Department. It is being held in Courtenay for members of their department, with two of us sitting in from Denman Island. A First Responder is basically a licensed first aider. Being licensed, we will be able to insert airways and give oxygen, in addition to standard first aid treatment. On an island with only one ambulance, this is an important function. Being licensed also means that we are not allowed to screw up, unlike a civilian first-aider, who only needs to avoid gross negligence.
It is an intense course, and I am looking forward to completing it on Sunday. It is being held over three weekend days and two evenings. The evenings were a logistical issue, since Wendy started her job this week at the RCMP and had the car. Although she was almost back home in time for me to use the car, it made more sense for me to try out the bus service. The bus only runs four times a day between Buckley Bay (the ferry terminal on the Vancouver Island side of Baynes Sound) and Courtenay, but it is scheduled so as to meet the ferry. The result is that I was able to walk on to the ferry, then get off on the other side and, after a wait of no more than two minutes, get on the bus to town. I was able to walk into the Courtenay Fire Department with one minute to spare before the class started. Luckily, I was able to catch a ride home with the other Denman Island firefighter, coming across on the last ferry.
Also in Fire Department-related news, I shaved my beard off in order to be able to use the self-contained breathing apparatus. It's funny how people both do and don't notice. The best comment I got was, "You look different. Did you always have that moustache?" After 23 years of facial hair, my chin feels drafts now!
Late night shopping! Last night was the one night in the year when Denman Island stores were open late, until 9:00 pm. The stores had their Christmas lights on, and the sidewalk was decorated with tea-light candles inside paper bags: at least 100 of them, all the way from the Craft Shop around to the COmmunity Hall. There were quite a lot of people out shopping. It was as much a social occasion as a shopping outing.
We walked downtown to partake of the festivities. Most of the way, we didn't need a flashlight, since the road was brightly lit by the rising almost-full moon. It was very pretty, descending the hill into a silver glowing fog bank. After wandering around the stores, we walked back home, admiring the beauty of the moonlit fields and forests. You don't get to appreciate moonlight in the city like that.
When we walk at night, we carry flashlights (though we didn't use them much last night) and wear flashing red lights on our arms. Night driving here is challenging enough with all the deer without adding unilluminated pedestrians to the mix!
Otherwise, it was a slow week. Things are quiet with a lot of islanders going away for Christmas. The days around Christmas are apparently BC Ferries' busiest days of the year. They put extra sailings on the main Nanaimo and Victoria runs. The Denman ferry, however, cancels several sailings on Christmas and New Year's Day.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
This will be our first Christmas in our new house, among our new friends. We are going to spend it relaxing quietly. We might have a few friends over for a visit sometime during the "holiday season".
Although we are not big on Christmas traditions, we do like to put up Christmas lights, just because it can be so dark this time of year. We've got them on the pergola above our front walkway. With the sun going down behind the Beaufort Range before 4:00, and with cloudy skies being so common at this time of year, late afternoons can be quite dreary. It is nice to come home to some pretty lights. When we moved, we got rid of our old-fashioned strings of lights. Now we use LED lights exclusively: a whole string of them uses the power of a single bulb of the old style Christmas lights.
On the weekend, the Fire Department set up the community Christmas tree in front of the Anglican church at the main intersection "downtown".
The Christmas light photo also shows a project that I worked on this week: traction strips on the ramp and front steps. You wouldn't believe how slippery wet wood can get when the temperature drops below zero! (Well, maybe you would.) I got a package of roofing shingles, cut the tabs off, and nailed them to every other board. Just in time, too, as the weather turned out...
Since last Friday, Environment Canada had been predicting temperatures well above zero. However, the weather obviously didn't read the forecast, because all through last weekend, it hung stubbornly below freezing. On Monday, we had snow for most of the morning, along with some freezing drizzle. We often get deer in our yard; here is one huddling under one of our trees trying to shelter from the snow.
Finally, on Tuesday, a major warm front came through, and the temperature zoomed up to +7. With the warmer temperatures came rain. It started raining on Tuesday, poured rain all day Wednesday, along with a howling wind, and is still raining now. We had been invited by neighbours to a solstice bonfire on Wednesday night, but it was cancelled due to the inclement weather. We actually need the rain. Although December has been below normal for temperatures, it has also been very dry. We were even warned that we should start watering our trees! So, the rain is quite welcome. The snow, of course, is long gone.
Surprisingly, though, for a couple of hours on Thursday, we had a "chinook arch" and sunny skies. Although the Beaufort Range on Vancouver Island isn't as impressive as the Rockies, if the wind is from the right direction, it can have a similar effect.
On Tuesday evening we went to Courtenay for a vegan dine-out sponsored by the Comox Valley chapter of Earthsave. The dine-outs are monthly events where they take over a restaurant and have a banquet-style meal of strictly vegan food. It makes for a nice social event for the attendees, plus it shows the restaurants how much of a market there is for vegan food. This month's one was at the Coast Westerly Hotel, one of the classier hotels in town. The food was excellent, and the company was good.
I have been informed that a necessary photograph was "missing" from the last two Denman Diaries. So, here it is: me without the face fur. I shaved the beard off in order to be able to use the self-contained breathing apparatus for my Fire Department training. Once the training is over in mid-January, I may let the beard grow back again. There are lots of jobs that need doing on a fire call besides running into burning buildings: driving the trucks, running the pumps, hauling ladders and equipment, none of which require breathing apparatus. Besides, now I feel drafts on my chin.
We have had a few good storms in the last week. We had a dandy one on the morning of Christmas Eve. The power was out for over three hours. It didn't bother us, but I imagine that people thinking about cooking turkeys were getting a bit nervous. Another one last night - it really was a "dark and stormy night", since there was no moonlight. The wind was howling through the trees, and something in the kitchen fan vent was banging like crazy and scaring the cats. The power was flickering both dark and extra bright. We were fully expecting it to go out again overnight, and I set the alarm on my watch as backup in case the alarm clock was dead in the morning. It didn't go out this time, though.
Christmas and Boxing Day were quiet, relaxing days. We went for a walk around the block (it's an 8.5 km walk) during a lull between rain showers.
Observant webcam viewers will have noticed something missing in the webcam image. On Tuesday, I demolished "Fort Danger", the kid's playhouse that was built on a raised platform in the meadow. In addition to being pointless and unsafe, it was a bit of an eyesore. So, the superstructure, the railings and the rickety stairs are all gone. Believe it or not, the structure wasn't even nailed down. Most of the demolition was accomplished just by pushing it overboard! I left the platform to use as a woodshed, because it is in a good location for that. I'll put some side walls on it and a more weatherproof roof.
I am getting over my Christmas cold. I've been marking assignments and final exams for the course I'm teaching at the college. Next week, I start teaching for the new term. I'll probably spend some of the New Year weekend studying the material for my new course. I figure it's always a good idea to stay at least one week ahead of the students.
Our big plan for the weekend is to go see the Harry Potter movie in town.
Happy New Year, everyone!
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 20-May-2013