St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
March came in like the proverbial lion this year. Actually, the snowy weather started on the last day of February, and continued for a couple of days. It is not very cold, and most of the snow melts by the afternoon, but it is annoying to have to shovel it in the mornings. One night this week, the first snow melted on contact, and then froze as the overnight temperature dropped below zero. The result was some serious windshield scraping in the morning.
It looks like the worst of it is over now. The forecast for the next few days is for rain.
Another sign of spring is that it is once again chimney fire season. People burn their fires low and smokey this time of year because they want just a little heat, and the smoke creates creosote deposits in the chimney. All it takes is one tongue of flame to go up the stovepipe and it catches fire. The fire department was called out to the first reported chimney fire of the season this week.
I prefer to make a hotter fire, and it is a point of pride with me to have no visible smoke coming out of the chimney. Still, I took the hint and disassembled the stovepipe for cleaning today. We get the chimney professionally cleaned once a year, but the stovepipe, where chimney fires start, should be checked more often. Ours was in pretty good shape, with only a small amount of creosote. It is now clean and should last the rest of the heating season.
Wendy spotted another sign of spring today while out on her walk. In the ditch beside one of Denman's main roads, she noticed these primulas flowering.
Back in January, I mentioned a couple of job prospects. Well, one of them came through. Some of you will already know this via email: I will soon be working at my old Calgary system manager job again. No, we aren't leaving Denman! They have opened up the position to telecommuting, so I will be doing it from home. It is the ideal Denman Island job: part-time, well-paying, and (best of all) no commuting. I start at the beginning of April.
Interestingly, a couple of days after I had accepted the Calgary job, I had a call from the other job I had applied for, at the Comox Air Force Base. They wanted me to come in for an interview. I wrote their exam back in early January, before I even knew about the Calgary position. Once I had applied for the Calgary job, I was dreading hearing from Comox first, since, if they had offered me the job, I would have had to accept it. The Calgary job is a much better situation, and it was a relief to be able to tell Comox that they had waited too long.
Work on the truck continues. I made the sides last weekend, and today I built and installed the wheel wells. Finally, I will no longer splatter mud all over the vehicle as I drive down the road!
The first two pictures this week appear to resemble quite nice semi-abstract landscape paintings. Don't ask for the artist's name, though. What appears to be paint and canvas is in fact the pattern of rust and rubber marks left by the ferries on the steel wing wall at Buckley Bay.
For the last few months, while our regular ferry, the Quinitsa, is in dry dock, our route has been served by the Kahloke. Aside from the significant difference in size, the Kahloke's passenger lounge is on the opposite side from the Quinitsa's. The result us that, whereas I would normally hardly notice the wing walls at the dock, I now see them close-up every time I go on the ferry as a pedestrian. I have been struck by how artistic the bang and scrape marks look. So, this week, I finally took a camera along and captured the scenes. The third photo is the un-cropped original of the first "painting".
Our cultural experience for the week consisted of a concert here on Denman Island last night by classical guitarist Daniel Bolshoy. He played extremely well, at times sounding like there was more than one guitarist on stage. Most of the music he played was unfamiliar to us, but Wendy and I both enjoyed it. Like all concerts here, it was well-attended. Where else does 20% of a community's population come out to a concert?
The weather this week has been quite rainy. However, in between showers, I have got quite a bit of work done on the truck. It is starting to look quite respectable. I am going for the "woody" look. Before long, it should be fully serviceable again.
Another project I have been working on when it was too rainy to work outdoors was a safety interlock for the generator. Information about installing generators always includes warnings to ensure that you do not "back-feed" the power line when you wire a generator into the house wiring. With good reason, since back-feeding can be fatal for hydro workers trying to repair downed power lines. Until now, my preventative measures consisted of a printed checklist reminding me of the proper order to flip the switches. I wanted (and the building codes require) something more substantial.
One alternative is a transfer switch, which costs nearly as much as the generator. A more reasonable alternative is a mechanical interlock, a device which prevents the main breaker and the generator from being switched on at the same time. Of necessity, it has to be a custom-built piece of hardware, since every electrical panel is different. I have just completed making and installing my interlock. It may not be much to look at, but it will protect the linemen and will keep any electrical inspectors happy.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Spring is bursting out all over Denman Island. Most of the snowdrops are just about finished, though ours must be late bloomers.
There are crocuses in full bloom everywhere.
Daffodils are beginning to flower, though the best displays are still a couple of weeks away.
There are violets flowering, and some little blue flower that we are not familiar with, forming a carpet on lawns. Speaking of lawns, I will have to mow the grass in the garden pretty soon.
Our rhubarb is up and looking healthy.
My project for next week is to start digging the trenches for the new rainwater cistern. I have a pad prepared under the deck for the tank itself. Except for the fill pipe from the downspout, all the plumbing will be underground.
This week, trees are starting to show signs of growing leaves. Our maples are showing a haze of green, as the buds are starting to swell. In some areas of Denman, alders are showing a hint of green too, and the first fruit trees are starting to flower downtown. Our place, being 300 feet above sea level is a little behind lower areas.
This week, I have been digging trenches for the plumbing for our new rainwater cistern. I have the supply and overflow pipes in the ground, and the new downspout is in place, though its discharge is temporarily re-routed out onto the grass. I have some finishing up work to do on that project, connecting some valves and frost drains, and then it will be done, and ready for the new 1500 gallon tank.
I have also started digging the trench for supplying electricity out to the garden. We have an electric fence around it, and we want to be able to install a water pump, as well as use other electric tools there. Having a permanent electric outlet there will be much more satisfactory than running a long extension cord from the house.
The reason I had to start that project now is that the trench for the electric cable crosses the trench for the rainwater pipes. Since the electric trench has to be two feet underground, and the water pipes are only a few inches down, it made sense to dig that trench first and get the cable buried in it, at least where they cross, and then install the pipes over it. Now, with the pipes in place, I am completing the electric installation.
It is a relatively short distance, about 50 feet, so I am digging it by hand with a mattock. For a longer dig, I would use some kind of machinery, I think!
Today, for something different, we went on a nature walk to learn about shore birds. Several of our local birders were there with spotting scopes, and there were handouts detailing the various identification features. We learned to tell glaucous-winged gulls from mew gulls and California gulls, and we spotted red-breasted mergansers (ducks), golden-eyes (more ducks) and common loons.
Denman is a significant area for shorebirds. At this time of year there are a lot of transient birds migrating north. The last couple of weeks have been the time if the annual herring spawn. Many sea birds time their migration to be here to eat both the herring and their spawn, which coats the beaches.
In other bird news, hummingbirds have been seen on the island, so it is time to set up the feeders. Our hummers seem to arrive about a week after the first ones are spotted on Denman Island, so we expect them any day now.
Spring has definitely sprung and the grass is riz!
I took advantage of the nice weather this week to finish my trenching project for the garden electric outlet. It had to be two feet deep for about 50 or 60 feet from the house to the garden. With the electric cable installed and the trench backfilled, I connected up the garden outlet, including a photocell (photo at right). The charger for the electric fence is inside the little wooden box. One of the two outlets is controlled by the photocell, so the fence comes on automatically at night and shuts off in the daytime. The other outlet is live all the time, for plugging in tools, or for any time we want the fence charged 24 hours a day.
With the grass "riz", I gave it its first trim of the year. I don't believe I have ever mowed grass in March before! We don't mow the entire cleared area of the property; it would be just too much. We prefer the natural look for most of our meadow. However, we do keep the grass trimmed in a strip around the house and in the fenced garden. We spent the day today weeding and generally cleaning up the garden. We are actually ahead of the weeds for a change. It remains to be seen how long that state of affairs will last.
Many of our summer birds are back again. I quite often hear the barred owls asking each other "Who cooks for you?" while I am working outside. On occasion, I will get into a conversation with one. If you call, they will answer.
One morning this week, as I was working on the computer, I heard a very loud buzzing noise. It repeated several times, and by the third of fourth buzz, I had determined that it came from one corner of the house, on the outside. I went out on the deck, and scared off a flicker (a species of woodpecker), which had been drumming on the house. I didn't find any evidence of damage to the wood, so he might have been hammering on the metal roof. I hope he didn't hurt his beak!
Our first hummingbird showed up on Sunday afternoon, looking tired from his long migration. Other residents, at lower altitude, reported their first hummers last week already. We noticed last year too that ours arrived about a week after the first ones were spotted, so it is probably a pattern. Now we have several of them, squeaking at each other as they fight over the feeders. To reduce conflict, we have two feeders, on opposite sides of the house. At this time of year, they are all males. The females will not arrive for a few weeks.
Last weekend, we attended a performance of Gustav Holst's chamber opera "Savitri" in our community hall, featuring an opera company from Vancouver. It was put on as a fundraiser for the local Buddhist meditation centre. Unfortunately, it was not well attended, a pity, since it was an excellent performence.
This week's cultural event is a play written and performed by the local Denman Island theatre group. I will give a review next week.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 20-May-2013