St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
The Anglican church in downtown Denman (right) is getting a new foundation. The building was built in 1917 and has been in need or repairs for a while. The congregation has been fundraising for several months, and this week some noticeable changes have started happening. The church has been raised up several feet on blocks in preparation for the new foundation.
Many of the old historical buildings on the island such as the church and the community hall were originally built on wood foundations. Cedar is quite rot-resistant, lasting longer than modern pressure-treated lumber, but even cedar is only good for 60 or 70 years when it is in contact with the ground. The old buildings gradually start to sag as the wood supporting them rots away. The community hall had its foundation rebuilt last year, and now it is the church's turn.
The other church on Denman, the United Church (left), is an even older building, built in 1889. It looks like its foundation was replaced a few years ago.
The dry weather continues unabated. Fortunately it is not as stiflingly hot as it was, but the cooler weather didn't bring much rain. A mere 2.4 millimetres, in fact. At this rate, our rainwater cistern will be dry in two or three weeks. We are watering the raspberries, grapes and other vines, but everything else has to fend for itself.
We are looking forward to being able to install a second cistern. All that rain over the winter just goes to waste, and we'll need it if we ever get the garden under control.
We expect to be harvesting grapes in a couple of weeks, and we have already picked one ripe gravenstein apple.
On the long weekend, we went to Sechelt to attend a writers' festival. Sechelt is located on the Sunshine Coast, which technically is a part of the mainland, but for all practical purposes is a pseudo-island. It can be reached only by ferry, just like any real Gulf Island.
In fact, from here, it took three ferries in each direction to get there. Although only 75km in a straight line from Denman Island, and 120km in road distance, it took us eight and a half hours to get there and seven hours to return. Most of that time was spent waiting for ferries or riding on them.
We started, of course, with our own Denman Island ferry, then drove up to Comox, where we took a larger ferry over to Powell River on the upper Sunshine Coast. From there, it was a short drive to Jervis Inlet, where another ferry took us to the lower Sunshine Coast. The critical link is the Comox-Powell River ferry, which only runs four times a day. If you miss that one, it is a long wait and your whole schedule is ruined. You make sure you get there early, and take a book to read in the lineup.
The festival itself is a three-day event featuring Canada's best authors reading from their latest or forthcoming works or talking about their creative process. It is held in beautiful Rockwood Gardens (left) in Sechelt.
The town of Sechelt itself is located on a narrow ithsmus between Georgia Strait and Sechelt Inlet. It has two shorelines, and nowhere in town is more than a ten minute walk from a beach. We ate most of our lunches on the beach (above), watching the cruise ships heading up the Strait to Alaska.
Back at home, the ferry dock on the Vancouver Island side of Baynes Sound is being upgraded. They are retiring the old wooden dock superstructure, with its winches and massive concrete counterweights in favour of a modern floating concrete dock. As well as just modernizing the facility, this will also speed up the unloading process slightly, since the ferry crew will no longer have to adjust the ramp height for the tide on every crossing.
The new dock is nearing completion. On Wednesday, the work crew were installing a steel bumper (below), the last major component of the dock. I expect that we will be using it within a few days.
Luckily, the new dock was installed beside the old one, so we have not experienced any delays due to the construction.
The same cannot be said for the tourist traffic. Ferry lineups are huge, especially on the weekends, and the ferry has to shuttle (run continuously, regardless of the schedule) to catch up. The afternoon commute from town can take two hours if you have a two sailing wait.
Most of the traffic is headed to Hornby Island. It would be so nice if they had their own ferry instead of having to cross Denman!
The latest news on the cougar is that the wildlife authorities have finally been persuaded to remove it. They will wait until someone makes a sighting of it and marks the spot, so that the tracking dogs have a scent trail to follow, then they will come over to tranquilize it. Hooray for our Wildlife Committee!
It has been a mostly quiet week.
I have been up on the roof, repairing the flashing around one of the skylights. Flashing would be fairly straightforward on a shingle roof, since you have an overlap every few inches to drain the water out. However, with a steel roof, there is no overlap for many feet, so designing the flashing to drain properly is a bit more complicated. Luckily, the contractor who did our renovations last year did a good job on the skylight he installed, so I had a good model to follow.
It was slow, hot work. I rigged up a safety line and harness using climbing rope and carabiners. While a prudent thing to do, it slowed down the work because I was constantly clipping in and out of the line as I moved around the roof.
This is the time of year to do roof work, though, when there is no chance of showers. I still have one more skylight to do. I will probably do it this weekend, since we have a forecast of dry weather continuously into the middle of next week.
Our potted fig trees have a permanent resident. Several times over the last few months, we have noticed a little green tree frog sitting in the pot. Tree frogs are about 2 or 3 centimetres long, and are something of a mascot for Denman Islanders. (Our local pirate radio station is called Tree Frog Radio.) We finally realized that the frog lives there! Every day, he is somewhere around those figs. Typically, he sits in the shade of their broad leaves. If the plants have been recently watered, he will sit up on the edge of the pot. Sometimes, he explores the deck or visits the neighbouring nasturtium pots.
In other wildlife news, our cougar has competition in the predator department. A black bear mother and cub have been seen on the island. The good news is that the cougar may soon be history. There was a good sighting of the cougar this morning, and the wildlife authorities came over today to tranquilize and remove it. No word yet on whether they were successful.
We got a load of firewood delivered this week in anticipation of cooler weather coming not too many weeks away. Now I can entertain myself splitting and stacking it. I also want to salvage some deadfall logs that are lying around the property. Because of the high fire hazard, chainsaw work can only be done in the morning.
Last night (Thursday), I was just getting ready for bed when my pager went off calling the fire department out to a house fire. Unfortunately, we were unable to save the house, but we did keep the fire from spreading into the forest, and to save some nearby structures and vehicles. Between getting to bed at 3:00 am and the alarm going off at 5:30 am for Wendy to go to work, I ended up with two hours' sleep. Needless to say, I didn't do any roof work today!
This week, we started harvesting our apples. We have our first Gravenstein apples, and have already had some home-grown, home-made apple crumble. There is nothing better than Gravensteins for pies and crumbles!
After the pruning they got in the winter, the apple and plum trees are looking much healthier. However, they are stressed by the drought, and not producing very well. We have been rationing our water for the berries and grapes, and the trees have had to fend for themselves. A lot of the apples are dropping on the ground where the bugs get into them, so we are picking anything that looks like it is almost ripe.
The plums turn to prunes on the tree before they are fully ripe. We did an experiment and found that they will ripen after they are picked, so we have started picking them before they are ripe, too.
The grapes, being watered, are growing nicely, and it looks like we should get a good harvest from them. We still don't know if they will be green or red grapes; it's too early for them to be showing colour.
There is a bumper crop of wild blackberries along the roadsides. It is a challenge to pick them because of their long thorns, but it is not uncommon to see someone leaning into the brambles picking a sackfull. I picked some to put on my porridge in the morning. Yum! They are worth a few scratches!
Speaking of drought, it is extremely dry. The grass is crunchy underfoot, and the only green vegetation in the meadow is thistles. The fire hazard went back up to "extreme" on Monday, and it looks set to stay there for a long time. Normally by this time in the summer (starting July 1st), we should have had 60 mm of rain. This summer, we have had only 10 mm, barely enough to keep the dust down for a couple of days. It is by far the driest summer on record, the "official" records going back to 1993.
The fire department is jumpy, expecting a brush fire any time. Believe it or not, there are still people (mostly tourists) making beach fires, in spite of the "no fires" signs everywhere.
At this week's fire department practice, we debriefed the house fire we attended last week. One thing that impressed me (and everyone else in the department) was our response time. From the time the 911 operator was given the address of the fire until the first firefighter arrived on scene was just 12 minutes! In that time, the operator had to record the information from the 911 call and transmit it to our pagers; we had to drop whatever we were doing at home, put on shoes, sprint for our cars, drive to the firehall, change into firefighting clothes, climb aboard our trucks, and drive 9 km to the fire scene. All in 12 minutes! I would say that that is pretty good performance for a rural volunteer fire department, especially considering that big city departments have a hard time maintaining a six minute response time. Did I mention that I am proud to be part of such a professional organization?
Speaking of fires, though this time the controlled kind, we have started laying in our firewood supply for the winter. As I mentioned last week, we had a load of wood delivered. So, this week, I have been splitting it.
I bought a small maul and some wedges, and have been using them to split the wood. A maul is like an axe, but it has a much fatter blade, and is considerably heavier for the same size. In the photo at right, the maul is on the right, compared to a normal axe / hatchet on the left. The fatter blade provides more splitting force, with less chance of the blade getting stuck in the wood, and the extra weight means it keeps going once it penetrates the wood. It surprised me how much of a difference it makes over using an axe or a hatchet. I was able to split most of the logs with a single blow from the maul. The ones that didn't split right away usually had a crack started, which I was able to finish off with the wedges. The bottom line is that I was able to make fairly short work of the splitting without getting myself sore or worn out.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 20-May-2013