St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
I was noticing the other day that Owen's face looked eerily familiar. It took me a while to place where I'd seen it before, but I think I've finally got it. Tell me that you notice the resemblance too. I think it explains a lot about his odd personality!
He is always getting into things; he has to investigate everything. He likes his own food well enough, but if Liesl is eating, he'd much rather eat her food than his. In fact, anything she has, he wants. If she is sitting in one of our laps, he wants to be in that lap. If she is getting patted, he will push her out of the way to get patted himself. Even though he knows he's not supposed to be up on the table when we are eating, he can't resist the urge to jump up and check out our dinners.
He will happily spend ten minutes jumping up to try and swat a hanging on our office door. He can leap up several times his body length, and will keep on doing so time after time, presumably in the hope that this time, he will be able to reach it.
For the entertainment of both the cats and ourselves, we have a laser pointer. (We're careful never to shine it in anyone's eyes, or to shine it at reflective surfaces, and we don't use it for more than a few seconds at a time.) Liesl pretty much ignores it - ho, hum, just a red dot - but Owen goes totally nuts about it. He gnashes his teeth, makes a funny chirpy meow, and tries to catch the dot of light. When it disappears, he will lie in his sphynx-like guard position for ten minutes, waiting for it to reappear, and, when he does finally leave the spot, he investigates every corner, expecting it to reappear at any moment.
Now, he recognizes the click sound that the switch makes. Actually, it makes a good distraction for when he is being bad. If he jumps up on the table, or if he tries to steal Liesl's food, all I have to do is click the switch on the laser pointer, and he gnashes his teeth and runs out to the living room, where the dreaded "red dot" most often appears.
One of his favourite things to do is to play in water. Cats from this planet aren't supposed to like water, but Owen doesn't know that. He'll stand in the sink, getting his feet all wet, trying to catch and play with a trickle of water from the tap. He doesn't mind if his head gets all wet or if the water runs down his back. Just a weird kitty!
The weather pattern is remaining quite steady: a day or two of heavy rain and stormy wind, followed by a day or two of calm, dry weather with the odd sunny break. The pattern is known as the "Pineapple Express", a jet steam feeding relatively warm, moist air from around Hawaii onto the coast anywhere between Oregon and the Queen Charlotte Islands. When it's nice here, Oregon is getting it, and vice versa. With all the rain, the ground is getting saturated. It doesn't take much wind to pull a tree out of the ground with its roots, and wind is in plentiful supply. After every big blow, you can hear the sound of chainsaws as people clear their driveways or the roads of downed trees. So far, we've been lucky.
All that moisture, of course, is what makes the forest here so lush. The moss, in particular, is turning a lurid shade of green, which is quite startling, especially when the sun shines on it. Here is a moss-covered old-growth stump not far from our place.
The rain is actually not too hard to take. We just wear our raincoats and gum boots, and enjoy the clean air and the lush rainforest vegetation.
This week, the high tides have been partcularly high. Because the river that flows through downtown Courtenay is a tidal estuary, a high tide means that the river is high, too. Add to that the large amount of runoff from all the recent rain, and there is some small-scale flooding in town. I walked past a baseball diamond the other day that was under two or three feet of water. Water was actually flowing onto the field through a culvert presumably intended to drain it, and at a considerable rate, too.
Here are a couple more pictures of the trumpeter swans out on Pickles Marsh. They are quite common here in the winter. The local birders would know better than I do how many of them live here on Denman, but in Courtenay, there are low-lying, flooded fields where, every morning, you can see large flocks of dozens or even hundreds of swans.
High technology has hit Denman Island! We were walking past the General Store this week and noticed a big banner in front of it, reading: "ATM". This is a truly amazing development, since Denman has always been famous for its lack of facilities. The dearth of banks and ATMs has been a point of importance in tourist guidebooks for years. We had to go in and check it out, and sure enough, there is a cute little ATM in the corner. Actually, it could turn out to be handy in an emeregency.
This weekend, I am off on a firefighting course in Comox. I had to bring all my gear home from the firehall for the course, so it was a good opportunity to get a few "hero shots". Here I am in classic hero shot pose. I wanted to get a picture with me holding one of the cats ("Fireman Rescues Cat From Tree"), but the cats wouldn't have anything to do with me in my fire outfit. It looks weird and smells funny! As you can see, they weren't impressed.
It's a two day course, so I'll be busy all weekend. Apparently, there will be a lot of hauling hoses up and down stairs in full gear, including breathing apparatus. Lovely! I also heard someone say there is some live fire training. I'll let you know next week.
The weather continues in the same pattern it has for a while: a storm every 36-48 hours, with high winds and heavy rain. In between the storms, we often get sunny breaks or, more often, a "chinook" arch, giving us a good view of showers on Vancouver Island while we enjoy drier weather. Next year, we are thinking of putting in a second rainwater cistern under the deck; there's so much of it, why not save some for the garden in the dry season?
My firefighting course last weekend was a lot of fun!
Aside from a couple of hours in the classroom, the entire course was held out in and around the "burn house" behind the Comox firehall. They have a two-story concrete building designed specifically to have fires lit in it. Although a bit unrealistic in that the structure will not burn, they can do some pretty real contents fires. They also have some outdoor props equipped with gas burners for training with specific types of fires: a car, a dumpster, a propane tank, and a gas-fueled pit that can be piled up with wood and other flammable material.
There were about a dozen people on the course, from various communities around the area, including three of us from Denman Island. We practised on simple pile-of-wood fires, then dumpster fires, car fires, and finally propane tank fires. In some of the exercises, we had to get quite close in to the fire to do the work: opening the hood of the car, or shutting off the propane tank valve. One of the techniques we practised was using a fog nozzle on the hose to create a protective barrier of water for such close-in work. It was quite effective: working only a couple of feet from a roaring gas fire under the hood, I didn't feel any heat.
After the outdoor work, we practised on interior fires, in the burn house. They had main floor fires, upstairs fires and basment fires, and everyone got a chance to work on both search and fire attack, both as the nozzle person and the backup person. The hardest things to do were to see where you were going, and to hear your teammates speaking. Of course, everyone was wearing respirators, so all the voices were muffled, in addition to being drowned out by the sound of your own breathing, other crews shouting, radio chatter and the sound of the fire itself. Visibility was effectively zero in smoke and fogged-up visors, so everything had to be done by feel.
One of the most interesting parts of the course was the "cold start" demonstration. The entire group crowded into one room where we watched as a fire started. It was quite spectacular to see how quickly a fire could get going, and especially how quickly a thermal layer formed and started descending. We had a chance to stick our hands up into the smoke layer to feel just how much hotter it was. They let the fire go to the stage of "rollover", where long tongues of flame were spiralling horizontally through the smoke at the ceiling before cooling it down, just so that we would understand and recognize the progression of a fire.
Needless to say, it was a hot, wet, stinky weekend, but excellent training! Unfortunately, there was no opportunity to take pictures. The photo is from a Pennsylvania fire department's website, but this is pretty much exactly what we were doing and looking at. In other fire department news, I finally found out that I passed my First Responder's course back in December.
We had another big storm on Monday night. The rain was the average torrential downpour, but the wind was the strongest we have had. Luckily, we are pretty sheletered at our house. Even though we are at one of the highest locations on the island (all of 100 metres above sea level), near the top of the ridge, the 150 ft tall trees all around us mean that the wind whistles right over us. Still, it was pretty noisy!
Today, I was working on the woodshed (née playhouse), getting the structure reinforced and nailing salvaged boards up on the weather (hidden) side, while Wendy entertained some women friends. We have some nice cedar siding left over from the house, which I'll use on the visible sides and front, so hopefully it will look half-decent.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 6-May-2013