St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
One year ago today, we left Calgary and hit the road for the coast. A year later finds us comfortably settled into our house and island life.
Once again, it is daffodil season. We have tons of daffodils! Last year, we didn't notice them because most were buried under piles of unraked leaves. This year, with the garden considerably tidier, they are up in large numbers, and getting set to bloom. Some of them are already open. All over Denman Island, at road intersections, at mailboxes and at the ends of people's driveways, there are carpets of daffodils blooming.
We have been working in the garden whenever weather and time permit. Now that the apple and plum trees have been pruned, I have been tying the branches to fence posts to ensure that they get proper exposure to light and air. I set up some 8-foot high posts in locations where there were no fence posts to accomplish the same purpose. We got an orchard ladder for maintaining the trees, and what a difference that makes! It has three feet instead of the more common four, making it more stable on rough ground.
Our various vines are starting to wake up. There is a honeysuckle that has its leaves already. The grapevines and the virginia creeper are still asleep, but two hydrangeas and a clematis have swelling buds. The latter four got severely nibbled by deer before we could get deer fencing set up around them, so we were a bit worried about whether they were still alive.
Last night, we went out to a blues concert over on Hornby Island. Normally, the last ferry comes back from Hornby to Denman at 6:00 pm, which makes evening events there inaccessible. Friday night is the one night when the ferry runs until 10:00 pm. The promoters decided to hold the concert a bit earlier than normal in order to allow Denman Islanders to attend and still make it home on the last ferry. They even laid on vans to take us from the ferry to the concert hall and back, meaning we could leave our vehicles on Denman and walk onto the ferry, which is considerably cheaper. The result was a big success: about two dozen Denman Islanders attended the concert, which featured blues musician Guy Davis. It was excellent!
The highlight of the past week was a visit to Vancouver last weekend to meet my new-found cousin Roger and his wife Maureen from Australia. Not only had we never met before, but until two months ago, I didn't even know he existed. So, it was quite a thrill to meet them. They are delightful people, and we had a great weekend. Of course, the visit was too short, and when they left, it was with promises to get together again, either here or in Australia. The photo at right shows (left to right) my brother Adrian, cousin Roger and me. The family resemblance is pretty obvious, or at least it was to us.
Signs of spring are everywhere. Already, the first farmers' markets have started up, with signs along the highway advertising their agricultural produce for sale.
The first hummingbirds have arrived back from Mexico. Prompted by a report by fellow Denman Island blogger and birdwatcher Harold Birkeland of their arrival, Wendy filled and set up the feeder on Monday. For a couple of days, there was no sign of activity. On Wednesday, however, when we arrived home from work, Liesl the cat was showing an unusual interest in looking out the dining room window, especially in the direction of the feeder. We waited a while, and, sure enough, we soon saw a shape darting about the garden like a big bug. The little fellow must be hungry and thirsty after such a long flight!
This weekend is the fire department's auction, so I don't have time to write a long diary entry. We basically collect everyone's junk, and then sell it back to them. Next year, when they realize that they still don't want it, they'll donate it again and we'll sell it again. It's a pretty good scam, really! I have to go to the community hall to help them get everything set up today, then the auction itself is tomorrow.
In between times, I have been getting exams ready for my students at the college, and we have been getting the garden ready. We don't have ambitious plans for the garder this year. We aren't going to put in vegetables until we have a bit more free time. However, we are planting more strawberries and raspberries, as well as some rhubarb.
The fire department's auction was a great success, raising over $11,000. The proceeds are split with the sports association, but even after the split, it will give us a healthy budget for discretionary spending.
This year, the money will be used to place hydrants at the main water sources around the island, such as ponds and marshes. Right now, each time a tanker truck has to fill up, they have to drop a hose with a filter into the pond. A permanently installed hydrant will simplify and speed up the process. Tanker trucks are crucial to firefighting operations here, so anything that speeds up their shuttle runs is a good thing.
The auction was fun, though it was a lot of work. We spend all day Saturday getting all the stuff set up in the community hall. My assignment was on the crew that brought a load of lumber to the hall. We had to sort and stack it on a trailer at the barn where it had been stored, then drive it down to the hall. Luckily, we didn't have to unload the trailer for the sale.
On Sunday, after spending several hours hauling items up to the stage as they were auctioned off, I got assigned to the lumber crew again, delivering it to the lucky buyers. There was a very nice mitre saw in the auction that I had my eye on, but one guy who just had to have every tool in the sale outbid me for it. Darn!
Today being a holiday, we were all prepared for non-stop rain. However, after a few sprinkles in the morning, the afternoon turned out quite nice and sunny. We spent most of the day outdoors. Wendy was digging one of the beds in the garden, while I chopped firewood and split kindling. Afterwards, I got out the lawn mower and gave some of the grass its first trim of the season. I think it is accurate to say that I have never mowed grass in April before in my life. We love this climate! We have way too much meadow to try to keep it all mowed, but we do want to keep a strip around the house under control as well as the grass within the fenced garden.
We aren't going to plant vegetables this year (well, not too many, anyway), but we did put strawberries in a couple more beds. That will make three beds of strawberries, and two of raspberries. We have several rhubarb plants, so I am seeing a fresh strawberry-rhubarb pie in my future. Yum! We will put in a few rows of various types of lettuce, since we enjoy fresh salads.
Last Saturday marked our first anniversary of being in this house. A lot has changed in the last year, but one thing that stayed the same was the April 15th weather: it poured rain!
This week has been a cold and rainy one. We had been getting used to the nice spring weather, and suddenly it took a nosedive. However, this weekend, it is suposed to get warm and sunny again. Unfortunately, I have to spend today indoors supervising my students' final exam. Tomorrow, however, we'll do outdoor stuff. Yesterday, was already quite a nice day - sunny, if a bit cool - and I took advantage of it to salvage some logs for firewood. I wanted to get them bucked and stored in the woodshed before our load of seasoned firewood for next winter is delivered, probably sometime next week.
The female hummingbirds have arrived to join the males which arrived a couple of weeks ago. We have a large complement of them in our yard. We have two feeders set up, on opposite sides of the house to minimize fighting. Even so, we regularly see scenes outside our kitchen window that are reminiscent of a Battle of Britain movie: birds everywhere, zooming, diving, chasing and evading each other, and all the time squeaking angrily (and surprisingly loudly) at each other.
Needless to say, the cats love to watch them. It's like kitty television. The picture above is of Liesl and Owen on the dining room window ledge, staring intently at the feeder. They are turning into window-ledge potatoes! It's a bit harder to get pictures of the birds themselves.
We have been doing quite a bit of garden cleanup, and today I planted our first lettuce. We are growing four kinds, but that is the only vegetable we are going to grow this year. Aside from the grapevines, which are late starters, everything is starting to leaf out. Even our potted fig trees have survived the winter and have nice healthy green buds on them. We'll be transplanting them into the garden as soon as they are big enough.
Since I was rummaging through my collection of cat pictures anyway, here's a recent picture of the two of them being cute. Hard to believe that these are the same two terrors that gallop through the living room sounding like an entire cavalry regiment, or that wake us up at 5:00am for no particular reason.
Remember last week, I was complaining that it was hard to take pictures of hummingbirds? Well, thanks to a new camera that allows me to use my old zoom lens from film camera days, I can now take very nice hummingbird pictures. This one is a female. Unfortunately, the weather the last few days has been somewhat dreary, so the lighting leaves something to be desired. The next sunny day, I will try to get a good picture of one of the males. If the light catches their feathers at just the right angle, they glow an iridescent red.
And speaking of iridescent red, the garden is coming along nicely. There are a few tulips scattered under the apple trees, and they are in bloom right now. We had some warm sunny weather last weekend and in the early part of this week, and a lot of flowers have made progress. Our plum trees are starting to flower, and the flower buds on the apple trees are starting to show colour.
The virginia creeper by the front door has buds growing on it. That makes four out of four for the vines by the front walkway having survived both the winter and last fall's deer-nibbling. They are all protected by wire cages now to avoid repeats of the latter. (The other three are a clematis and a pair of hydrangeas.) Even the grapevine, one of the last plants to wake up, has buds growing on it now.
Spring also means time for home renovations. The old main door of the house opened from the south deck directly into the kitchen. Since we now exclusively use the mudroom, and the deck is still accessible from the dining room doors, the kitchen door serves no purpose. So, probably next week, weather permitting, I will be removing it and replacing it with a window. Under the window, we are going to put a cat door. I was out in the workshop this afternoon making up the components for it.
No, we haven't changed our minds about not letting Liesl and Owen run loose! Before they are granted use of the cat door, I will be building an enclosed outdoor run on the deck. The cat door will open into it. That way, they will be able to enjoy the outdoors, while staying safe from eagles and not endangering the local bird populations.
I have all the exams marked for my college courses, so I am just about finished with my teaching, aside from some final paperwork.
In other local news, one of the Hornby Island eagles has hatched. Our neighbouring island has been making headlines since a naturalist set up a live webcam on an eagles' nest. Apparently, millions of people watched the hatching live.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 6-May-2013