St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
Lots more flowers are coming out now. The salmonberries are blooming at the back of our meadow, and the big cherry trees downtown are putting on an impressive display.
Last Saturday evening, we attended a play called "The Wobble", written and performed by the local theatre group. It is set on an island very much like Denman, after some unspecified disaster (the "wobble" of the title) has disrupted western civilization. It is about staying true to small island values. While you will probably never see it performed at the Stratford Festival, it was well-written. During the course of writing it, which apparently took three years, one of the cast members departed the island, requiring the script to be modified to write out her part. The result was a little forced, requiring readings from the diary of a character who never appears, to replace the missing parts. However, the acting and directing were good, and we enjoyed it. The performance was well-attended, too, on the last night of a four-night run.
Because the weather was fine, we walked down the hill to the play. Afterwards, we walked back up the hill by moonlight, serenaded by a very loud chorus of frogs. You know those Hollywood movies where they want you to believe it is night by filming through a blue filter and playing a background track of frogs croaking? And you know how it usually gives the impression that the director is over-doing the frog thing just a bit? Well, those movies are nothing compared to the moonlight frog chorus here!
This week, I started my new job, telecommuting to Calgary to do computer support. The technology all worked properly (more or less, anyway, with the odd curse aimed at Microsoft). Nowadays, most reference material is available on the Web. That is a big improvement over the old days, when a Tech Support guy needed the "gray wall", an entire bookcase filled with 3-ring binder reference manuals. When we first moved here, the only Internet access was dial-up, and this job would not have been possible. High-speed Internet has opened up the employment situation for quite a few islanders.
We did some garden work yesterday and today. The strawberries are weeded, and the compost is turned, for what it is worth. I think I may have to take some lessons in composting. As it is now, the best way to preserve old vegetation seems to be to put it into the compost pile! I did get a little bit of compost, about one wheelbarorow load, out of it, but I would have expected a bit more. You would think that, in this climate, you would hardly have to work at it.
Taking a walk around the property the other day, I noticed that I still have quite a few blowdowns from the big winter storm to cut up for firewood. I have about a cord and a half cut already, and there is probably at least as much again still out there.
I sure was wishing we had our rainwater cistern installed this week! With 17.5 mm of rain last Sunday, and a whopping 52.8 mm (over two inches) on Friday, plus a few showers in between, it would be just about full by now. The roof collects about 20 gallons for each millimetre of rainfall. We are hoping for a few more rains like that after the cistern is installed.
We were getting quite frustrated with delays in getting our cistern, and have finally pulled the plug on our order and switched to another supplier. Not only has he a reputation for better service, but he has reduced his price to be more competitive, and he will deliver. He assures us he can get it to us quickly, as soon as the site is prepared.
As part of the supplier's service, he gave very detailed instructions on site preparation. The bottom line: more digging! I have to make the excavation a foot wider and six inches deeper than I had it. Lovely! I also have to fill the bottom of the hole with six inches of sand, the source of another adventure.
Six inches of sand in an eight-foot hole works out to just over one cubic yard of sand. The back of the truck also works out to just over one cubic yard. This will work, I thought. So, on Saturday, the day after Friday's heavy rain, I went into town for a load of sand. What I hadn't counted on was that the cubic yard of sand also contained a cubic yard of water from the rain.
Luckily, the place I was buying the sand from used a small loader, not one of the big monster machines. Had they dropped an entire yard of wet sand into the truck in one scoop, it would have flattened it! The smaller machine required three scoops to make a full yard. By the second scoop, the rear suspension was bottomed out, and I cancelled the third one. After a quick stop to put more air in the tires, we drove slowly back to Denman, front end up in the air, feeling every bump and dent on the road through the frame of the truck. Aside from scraping the back bumper on the ferry ramp as we disembarked, the trip was incident-free.
Now, more shovelling. Lovely!
Speaking of the ferry, B.C, Ferries has promised us the Quinitsa back in service on Monday. Not a moment too soon! With the tourist traffic having started on the Easter weekend, Wendy frequently has to wait for two ferries to get home after work. The Quinitsa holds about twice as many vehicles as the Kahloke, so the commute should be better at least until June, when the tourist traffic gets really heavy.
The bigger boat also means that they will go back to the regular schedule. With the Kahloke's temporary schedule, the ferry didn't connect with the bus, meaning that anyone trying to save money and fossil fuel getting into town would have to sit in the Buckley Bay coffee shop for 45 minutes. The entire trip, house to downtown Courtenay, took two hours. On the regular schedule (assuming that the ferry is on time), the bus connection is perfect: the bus arrives about two minutes after you reach the bus stop.
Unfortunately, they have warned us that, because they were not able to finish the Quinitsa's refit, it will be taken off our route again in September. Lovely!
The first photo is one that I took earlier this week, while I was at work in my office. I noticed some movement outside the window, and was able to snap a few photos. This is the life, deer outside the "office" window!
The second photo is one from my collection of interesting signs around Denman. The Guest House (the closest thing we have to a hotel here) had a special musical event on St. Patrick's day (note the leprechaun on the window), and apparently were expecting it to attract a particular demographic. The 60's are alive and well here.
Yet more digging!
I finished digging the foundation for the new rainwater cistern and lined the bottom of the excavation with sand. My original calculation of one cubic yard of sand proved to be accurate, so I had to make another run into town for the final one-third of a yard that I couldn't haul last week. (On the way home, the truck gave me a reminder that it would very much like its gas gauge fixed: I ran out of gas and had to get BCAA to bring me some.) The cistern will be delivered tomorrow, and there is rain forecast for the following day.
At least this week I didn't have to do all of the digging myself. We had a backhoe come in to excavate the foundation and utility trenches for the new site of the cottage. (photos 2 and 3) That was definitely preferable to digging it all by hand. The backhoe ran into bedrock about 18 inches down for half the length of utility trench, which is going to complicate laying the electrical cable. I will probably have to pour concrete over the cable.
Yesterday morning, Wendy and I went on a nature hike to Boyle Point Provincial Park, at the south end of Denman Island. The hike was led by Hamish Kimmins, a forest ecologist who lives on the island. The title of the hike was "Mayhem in Boyle Point", and its focus was the devastation left by the big storm in December. The south end of Denman and Boyle Point Park in particular were particularly hard hit by the winds, which reached 177 km/h, almost the strength of a Category III hurricane.
Hamish showed us several of the larger blowdown areas, and explained why those particular areas were vulnerable. It all starts with root-rot, of which he was able to show us several examples, since there were lots of roots up in the air. As soon as one rot-weakened tree goes down, either in the storm or just on its own, it opens up a gap in the forest canopy through which the wind can funnel and push on the trees behind it. Typically, the nearby trees are also weakened by root-rot and are easily pushed over. Eventually, the opening in the forest is big enough that the wind can blow down healthy trees. Finally, the trees at the back end of the blowdown may be pushed over like dominoes simply by the weight of the other trees falling against them.
He also explained why change like a major blowdown event was important to the ecology of the forest, increasing the diversity of both tree species and animal habitats.
Halfway through the walk, my fire department pager went off, calling me to a meeting at the firehall. Luckily, it was not an emergency, and the page gave me an hour's notice of the meeting. Wendy and I bailed out of the walk and, along with fellow blogger Harold Birkeland, who generously offered to drive us back to where we left the car, hiked back out without seeing all the mayhem of the forest.
After a very quick lunch, I spent the rest of the day on Saturday participating in a search for a missing psychiatric patient. Denman is a big island with lots of places for a person to hide if they do not want to be found. The search involved the fire department, as well as search and rescue teams from Courtenay and Parksville, helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft, and the RCMP. Luckily, the person was found about suppertime.
It is impressive how well a bunch of volunteers can put together an efficient and well-coordinated multi-agency operation!
After a quick cleanup, we headed out for our cultural event of the evening. The final show of the Concerts Denman season was the Chucky Danger Band. They were pretty good, with some good harmonies and a capella singing, and they did a good cover of the Beatles' "Back in the USSR". However, basically they were a rock'n'roll band, and the sound was a basic rock'n'roll mix: too much drums and bass and too little vocals and guitars. We left at the intermission, with our ears ringing.
Well, it finally arrived! The cistern arrived on Monday and was rolled down the hill and slid into place under the deck. The plumbing connections look exotic, but were quite straightforward to install. I had it completed and ready to collect rain by Monday evening, just in time for a forecast of rain on Tuesday.
Don't tell anyone, but I think we may have jinxed the weather, as a result of installing the cistern. Tuesday's rain never materialized. In fact, in spite of several days this week being forecast to have rain or periods thereof, the forecasts invariably got changed as the time approached to mere showers, which for the most part didn't materialize. We have only had 6 mm of precipitation this week. This is not good.
Our cultural event this week was concert number three in the Mozart Piano Sonatas series, performed by "Bob". That would be Robert Silverman to you, but the concert promoter is a bit of a character and a personal friend of "Bob's", and that is how he was introduced on stage. The four-concert series began with two concerts last fall and includes all 18 of Mozart's piano sonatas. The fourth and final concert in the series is tonight.
The music was excellent, as one would expect. The entire series has played to a packed hall. The community hall owns a superb concert grand piano, which is just the thing for concerts such as this.
As is our habit when the weather is nice, we walked to the concert and walked back by moonlight to a chorus of frogs.
This morning, we were again listening to a chorus of frogs at this week's nature talk, this time about pond life. The talk was presented by Peter Karsten, former director of the Calgary Zoo, and one of many nature experts living here on Denman Island. He showed us samples of the various insect larvae, tadpoles and beetles that can be found in lakes and ponds at this time of year, and told us a bit about pond ecology. He also gave us some basic instructions about how to construct an artificial pond. That is a definite possibility for the back of our clearing, if we ever run out of other projects.
The frog in the picture is a red-legged frog, one of two species found on Denman Island. The other is the tree frog. Apparently, it is only a matter or time before our marshes and wetlands are taken over by bullfrogs, an invasive species that is already on Vancouver Island and spreading north. They are brought into an area by accident by pet stores that import pond weeds for aquariums. If the weeds contain bullfrog eggs which hatch, many stores will sell the tadpoles. All it takes is for a few such tadpoles to be irresponsibly dumped into wild wetlands and the invasion is on. We don't have pet stores on Denman, but who knows how many kids have aquariums?
Remember, three weeks ago, I was talking about the frogs' chorus being used in the background of Hollywood movies? It turns out that my ear was more accurate than I thought. According to Peter, the "standard" frog recording that the sound effects people use in movies was recorded on Vancouver Island, and features our very own tree frogs, whose song was considered by the movie people to be the most melodious of all frogdom. So, even if you are watching a movie that is set in a tropical jungle, there is a very good chance that the frogs in the background are from much cooler climes.
In garden news, our first strawberry blossoms are out.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 20-May-2013