St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
For the past week, we have been under the influence of a weather pattern known as an "omega block". The jet stream winds take a looping path resembling the Greek letter omega, a pattern that effectively deflects all incoming weather systems and prevents the weather from changing. As a result, the weather all week has been exceptionally boring: low-lying fog that does not burn off all day, highs of +4°C and lows of -3°C, every day.
Every morning, I have had to scrape frost off the car windows, rather annoying in this part of the world!
On Thursday, the fog thinned enough that the sun was able to peek through in the late afternoon at higher elevations, providing these scenic views out over the remaining fog bank in Baynes Sound to the Beaufort Range on Vancouver Island.
The fog has affected the operation of our ferry. In order to serve the normal traffic load with the Kahloke, the smaller vessel that is temporarily filling in while our regular ferry is in for its refit, it must normally boot across the Sound at quite a high speed. Obviously, in the fog, this is not a good idea, so they have been running at reduced speed, fog horn honking all the way, and the schedule has been approximate at best.. In fact the fog has been so dense that they have a lookout standing on the bow all the way across, surely one of the coldest, most miserable jobs on the entire ferry fleet. Wendy reports from her daily commute that they have had at least one close encounter with a fishing boat in the fog.
I had a bit of an automotive adventure on Monday, when my beater truck decided to take some unscheduled time off. Coming home from work, I was driving up our "big hill" (a 13% grade) when, halfway up, the engine died. As this is on one of the busiest roads on the island, at a spot with no shoulders, only an upward cliff on one side and a downward cliff on the other, I had no choice but to roll back down the hill to level ground below, where I parked on the grassy shoulder and walked home up the hill.
A call to a local mechanic suggested that the likely cause was ice in the gas line or carburetor, due to the cold, humid weather. So, on Tuesday morning, I was down at the hardware store bright and early to pick up a bottle of gas-line anti-freeze. After a couple of hours of roadside tinkering, during which I established that the gas line was not frozen and that a dirty fuel filter was not the cause but was not helping matters, and after an impromptu consultation with a local resident who strolled over to see what was going on and, surprisingly, offered useful advice, I concluded that the problem was a dead fuel pump. It was able to supply a trickle of fuel, enough to start the engine and run it for a few seconds, but not enough to drive, and certainly not enough to lift the fuel the extra height caused by the truck's pointing uphill at 13%. Had I been able to run the engine long enough to get turned around, it is probable that I could have driven up the hill in reverse!
Luckily, I was able to find a replacement fuel pump in Courtenay which Wendy picked up for me. Meanwhile, I rode my bike to work, and was able to put in a half-day at the job site. Then, after supper, by the light of a trouble lamp plugged ito the car's cigarette lighter socket and a head-lamp, I performed the required fuel pump transplant surgery by the side of the road. To my relief, the diagnosis was correct and the surgery successful, and the truck is running fine now.
One of our cats (Owen, we suspect) has discovered the recreational use of toilet paper. Going downstairs to check the kitty litter one morning this week, I discovered that the basement and stairs were festooned with the remains of an entire roll of it. I was in a hurry to leave for work, so I was not able to get a picture before cleaning it up, unfortunately. The following day, with a replacement roll now mounted so that the paper unrolls from the back of the roll, Owen tried the trick again. Apparently, he found it less entertaining this time, but not for lack of trying, as you can see!
Last weekend, we attended the 16th annual World Community Film Festival in Courtenay. It was a day-long extravaganza of documentary films, mostly feature-length, highlighting development and community issues around the world. Although there were evening screenings on the Friday and Saturday evenings, we only went for the Saturday morning and afternoon films, viewing a total of six films. They had five venues, so, at any one time, there were five films in progress. It was quite hard to decide which of the five we wanted to see in any time slot.
The films we saw addressed the privatization of drinking water, the human side of telemarketers, making human connections in war zones, providing humanitarian assistance to illegal immigrants, a rescoring of Vivaldi's Four Seasons for traditional musicians from India, China and the Inuit culture, and the response of Cuba to its oil crisis.
We found the final film, the one on Cuba, to be inspirational, as it addressed the issues of sustainability that we all will face as a result of global warming and the coming "peak oil" crisis. After a few years of hardships, the Cubans have reorganized their society to be less dependent on petroleum. People live closer to where they work; universities have been decentralized to reduce commuting; people walk or travel by bicycle; farming is organic, and 80% of Havana's food is grown within the city limits in urban gardens. Denman Island, with its "back to the land" ethic might be a perfect laboratory for trying out some of those ideas in our society.
Speaking of Cuba, last night, we attended a concert here on Denman by AlexCuba, a trio of Cuban musicians from, of all places, Smithers, B.C.. It was good, toe-tapping Latin music, and there were dance areas set aside in the hall for those who felt the urge to move. Their stage presence was a blast from the past, as the lead singer, Alexis Puentes, sported a magnificent 1970s-style "afro" haircut.
A sign of impending spring: the frogs have started migrating across the roads. Just over the ridge from our place, there is a spot on Denman Road that is a known frog crossing, and, on a couple of occasions recently, I have had to swerve to avoid the little hoppers. In fact, that particular location is used with such regularity by the frogs that, a couple of years ago, someone erected a warning sign for motorists (above). The sign is gone, the victim, no doubt, of a lack of humour in the Department of Highways, but the crossing remains.
While searching in my archives for my frog crossing photo, I noticed that, a year ago this week, I reported on our daffodils being up. Naturally, I had to check on their progress this year. I am happy to report that they are right on time, being in the same state that they were then.
From time to time, our neighbours across the street, Dave and Carol, ask us to look after their cat when they are away. It is a simple job, consisting of filling the food dish and assuming that it really is the cat, not the local racoon population that is eating it. Last weekend, on a cat-feeding visit, we noticed that they have some flowers that are even more advanced than the daffodils that I was bragging about last week.
I am not sure what the yellow bud is, but the white ones are snowdrops. Actually, I am surprised that the snowdrops are still flowering this late in the season! (Heh-heh! I just have to rub it in!)
The weather has been consistently warm for more than a week. On Thursday, they forecast rain all day. It started out that way, with low cloud and rain, but by mid-afternoon, the sun was shining, and the temperature here on the island hit 12°C. I had taken a day off to do errands in town, and it was very pleasant to drive back on the old highway in the afternoon, admiring the view across the water to Denman Island, shining under a blue sky.
I started working on the box of the truck. The original box was badly rusted, to the point that carrying cargo was a risky proposition. Last weekend, I removed most of the old box (easy to do: just cut along the rust lines!). I am going to build a wooden box in its place. It is an easy and inexpensive fix, and should make the truck look even more rural and rustic than a pickup normally does. It will also make it more usable than it was.
One of the first loads it will carry will be a new cistern for collecting rainwater. We currently have 1000 gallons of storage capacity. We are going to add another 1500 gallons for a total capacity of 2500. The new tank will go under the deck, where it is conveniently located near the downspouts, and where it is high enough for gravity-feeding the water to the garden. I estimate that, if we collected all the water that runs off the roof in a year, we could fill 30,000 gallons of storage. It certainly makes sense to store a portion of that to see the garden through the dry season. We are planning to install the new tank within the next few weeks, so it can start collecting this season's rain.
Remember, a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about one of the cats having discovered the entertainment potential of toilet paper? I thought I was pretty smart, reversing the direction of the roll. Well, it seems that the culprit has now figured out that trick. This time, I grabbed the camera before cleaning up.
One of the towels on the floor is meant to be there. The bathroom floor is heated, so it is one of the cats' favourite spots to sleep. The towel is there to make them more comfy. Apparently, they do more than sleep there, though.
Spring continues to approach here on Denman Island. Driving home from work one day this week, I noticed that a flock of sheep in a field by the road now included two lambs: one black, one white.
Daffodils are continuing to spring up in our garden. One group (second photo) has punctured right through a maple leaf in its attempt to reach the light. Downtown, by the Seniors' Hall, we saw a couple of purple crocuses about to open up.
The weather reminds us that, officially, it is still winter. Today's forecast included a snowfall warning. Thankfully, the snow consisted only of a few flakes mixed in with the rain, and did not stick to the ground here. The snow line, however, is not very far up the mountains across Baynes Sound. Earlier this week, I saw a car parked at the Buckley Bay ferry terminal with six inches of snow on its roof. I suspect that it had spent the night up on Mount Washington, at the ski area.
We have ordered our new 1500 gallon rainwater cistern, which should be here in a couple of weeks. While in town this week, I picked up most of the plumbing fittings needed to install it and connect it to the garden irrigation system.
Last night, we attended another in the Concerts Denman Series, for which we have season tickets. Last night's performance was by a Maori dance group named Kahurangi. It was a sellout performance, and justifiably so! It consisted of songs, dances and martial arts techniques perfomed by a group of seven dancers. Although we couldn't understand the words, the pieces apparently told the Maori creation myth story. It was a very beautiful and energetic performance.
I am continuing to work on the truck in my spare time, weather permitting. I have the deck and front wall of the box installed. The trickiest part is integrating the fuel filler cap into the structure. I think I have figured out how I am going to do it, though it involves some tricky woodworking. By next week, it should look more like a truck again.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 20-May-2013