St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
We continue to harvest our fruit trees. We have almost finished the transparent apples, and are starting to pick the gravensteins. All of a sudden this week, our plums are changing colour. Our grapes, unfortunately, seem to have been stunted by the cool, damp weather. Last year at this time, they were just starting to ripen when some theiving varmint stole them all. This year, although much more abundant, they are small and nowhere near ripe.
We are enjoying a surprisingly good harvest of our late strawberries, and our late raspberries are just starting to produce. With a little warm weather, we should have a ton of raspberries.
In preparation for our cottage move, I had to dig another 100 feet of trench for the septic system. However, I have had enough digging for a while, so I hired a young fellow to do the work for me. He did a splendid job at a fair price. That is definitely the way to go!
The Blackberry Faire, Denman Island's annual fall fair was held today. It had all the ingredients of a traditional fall fair: a parade with vintage cars and fire trucks, booths selling produce and crafts, vegetable contests, etc.. It also had torrential rain, though it didn't seem to dampen anyone's spirits.
A highlight of the parade was the entry by our three island doctors. Dressed in surgical scrubs, they wheeled a gurney, complete with patient, on whom they "operated" without benefit of anesthesia. Their sign said, "Denman Island doctors: keeping the island in stitches".
I worked the morning and lunchtime shift at the Fire Department's hamburger stand as the designated veggie-burger cook. Most of the customers wanted regular beef burgers, but one little girl, no more than five or six years old, asked for a veggie burger that was not cooked on a greasy grill with meat. We were happy to be able to oblige. We sold more than a dozen veggie burgers, compared to over 150 meat burgers, so I wasn't exactly worked off my feet!
The pie booth was selling vegan chocolate mousse pie. Naturally, I felt obligated to sample it, and can report that it was excellent!
It has been a fairly uneventful week.
We have finished picking the transparent apples, and are harvesting the gravensteins. The gravenstein is our favourite eating apple, as well as being the absolute best variety for apple pies. Unlike many of the supermartket apples that are recent upstarts, the gravenstein is a true heritage variety, dating back to the 17th century. We consider ourselves very lucky indeed that our favourite variety was already growing right here when we moved in.
We picked the first plums this week. These are the dark plums, my favourite type. They have a sweet, complex flavour that might make a rather nice wine. That might be something to look at in the future.
With some warmer weather finally, the grapes are starting to make some progress. It is unlikely that they will reach full size this late in the season,, but they are starting to sweeten up. I will have to put a cover over them soon to prevent birds from getting them before we do.
The raspberries are in full production now. We are getting more each day than we can eat on our porrige, so Wendy is freezing them.
With all that good fruit, we have been eating particularly well lately. Lest anyone think that we vegans are deprived, check out this banana split, with soy ice cream, home-grown raspberries and home-made chocolate sauce.
Speaking of chocolate, the new chocolate factory just down the road is nearing completion. We are expecting to see a notice of a grand opening extravaganza soon. Or hoping to, anyway! We took a stroll by the place today to check it out, and Wendy took a peek in the window to see if they had any stock on hand. Yes, folks, that nice cedar-shake building with huge picture windows is a chocolate factory! As a condition of their rezoning application being approved, they were required to finish the building in a style consistent with island architecture. The building is beautiful, and you should see the view!
Speaking of views, we went for a walk to a viewpoint for a picnic lunch today. This is not the view from the chocolate factory, but it is not much different from it. Here I am admiring the view out over Baynes Sound.
The construction is going well. I had a load of supplies delivered yesterday, enough to keep me busy for the next week or two.
We also got our final load of firewood delivered. Between it and the wood I cut earlier from our blowdowns, we are well supplied for the winter.
As the offical Denman weatherman, I would like to explain that, when it comes to weather, I am in advertising, not in management! We had a nice warm, sunny, dry week, followed by two days of cool, cloudy, wet weather. Guess which two? The weekend, of course. The sky is starting to clear out now, just in time for Monday.
However, the various fruit trees and bushes were quite happy to enjoy the warm weather last week. We are getting a nice bowl of raspberries every day, a few strawberries, and more plums and apples than we know what to do with. Wendy has been busy making apple sauce, plum jam and several delicious desserts, as well as freezing a lot of them. We can see that we will have to investigate building a root cellar or some other kind of storage system before too long.
We had a good crop of pears for the first time, but unfortunately, most of them turned out to be rotten at the centre. A pity, because the edible parts are quite delicious. Talking to one of the local orchardists at the Farmers' Market yesterday, we learned that pears are really a bit marginal here. Even as orchardists, (i.e. knowing what they are doing) they have only been able to grow pears in the last couple of years as the climate warms.
This week, we noticed that the grapes are starting to look riper. The skins are starting to turn translucent, though they are still undersized. Wendy and I each tried one and agreed that they are sweet enough to be almost ready to pick. Another couple of warm days should do it. Since this is exactly the point at which some thieving varmint ate all our grapes last year, I covered the vine with the fabric that we used in June to cover the strawberries. We are hopiing that it will discourage birds and other critters from stealing them.
We had a very pleasant visit from some old friends, Michael and Bev, originally from Calgary. They now live in Sooke, near Victoria. They have some other friends on Denman and drove up for a combined visit for a couple of days. It was fun showing them around the property and giving them the grand tour of Denman. They were impressed by how much there was to see on the island when you get off the main road to the Hornby Ferry.
I am continuing to prepare the new building site. I have built up the sides of the foundation to their final height. This week's operation will be to fill them with concrete. The ends are being left open for now so that the house-moving vehicle can drive through. Fortunately, it is the sides that are load-bearing, so the building can just be dropped (well, lowered gently!) onto the side walls, and the trailer driven out. The design of the foundation was planned with this operation in mind, so the footings are exactly at ground level. Once the building is in place, I will brick up the end walls.
Though we don't have television here, we don't lack for entertainment.
One of our entertainments this week was a meeting convened by the Islands Trust to inform the community about an application for expanding a shellfish-farming lease in the waters of Baynes Sound. One of the current shellfish growers wants to triple the size of their lease, by rezoning water area that is currently zoned for conservation. The application rankles islanders for several reasons, among them: the company is treating "conservation" zoning as though it were "commercial reserve"; they are offering the community absolutely nothing; they are asking for us to donate this zoning, giving them an asset that is worth a lot of money. This sure sounds like corporate welfare to me and a lot of other residents. As a result, there was a large turnout at the meeting: the big hall at the Community Hall was packed to standing room only.
Though decorum prevailed, not a single voice spoke in favour of the application, aside from the applicants themselves. There is not much chance that Islands Trust will grant the rezoning in face of unanimous community opposition. However, that will likely lead to a showdown between Islands Trust and the provincial government, who are keen to develop every square inch of Baynes Sound. Interesting times ahead.
Our other entartainment this week was the first concert in the annual Concerts Denman series. The concert featured a Vancouver group named Tamboura Rasa, consisting of guitar, fiddle, bass, drums and percussion, playing a variety of Spanish-influenced music. For several numbers, they were accompanied by flamenco and belly dancers, a combination that worked surprisingly well together. The concert, as usual, was excellent, and was well-attended.
On Thursday, I celebrated my birthday. We didn't go out to celebrate, it being a particularly busy work week for me (major project implementation with much overtime), but Wendy baked me a great big chocolate birthday cake. I would post a picture of it, but you've got to be pretty quick to catch a chocolate cake around here!
The pictures I do have are from a hike we did today on Hornby Island's Mount Geoffrey. We hiked there in the spring, but, not knowing the area, ended up on the "wrong" side of the mountain, with no views. This time, we hiked the "right" trails, and enjoyed the scenery immensely.
The trailhead is located only a kilometre or so from the Hornby ferry dock, so we parked on the Denman side and walked onto the ferry as foot passengers. The trail follows the top of a benchland half-way up between the water and the summit of the mountain. All along the bench, there are views out over Lambert Channel to Denman Island and Vancouver Island. After a couple of kilometres, the trail doubles back and climbs up the ridge to the top of the mountain, at 300m above sea level. The trail is through mixed forest of douglas fir, arbutus, cedar and poplar, but with frequent viewpoints.
We had just arrived at one of the viewpoints, and I was getting ready to take a picture of the ferry crossing Lambert Channel when I saw a huge splash a short distance ahead of the ferry. It didn't take long to realize that what we were seeing was a pod of orcas, at least eight in number, playing and dining on a large number of salmon. The ferry stopped in mid-channel, and the passengers must have had a magnificent view of the orcas only a few metres away. The large splash in the picture was made by one orca who leaped right out of the water and landed with a huge splash. A few seconds later, we, up on our lofty vantage point, heard the "thump" of its landing, followed by the clearly-audible chorus of "WOW!!" from the ferry passengers. Wow, indeed!
It was an excellent treat on a perfect day of hiking. Lunch at the top of the mountain consisted of sandwiches made with Denman Island produce, and home-grown apples. What could be finer?
This week, I got all our firewood stacked in the woodshed. Not a moment too soon, as the weather has turned cool and rainy. In fact, this weekend, it started raining after lunch on Saturday and still hasn't let up as I write this, giving us a total of over 57 mm (so far) - nearly two inches - for the two days. We are hoping this is not the start of the rainy season yet. It really is not due until November, and after a cool damp summer, we are due for some warm, or at least sunny, weather.
I finished the concrete work for the cottage foundation this week. There, too, my timing was good, since wet weather is actually good for concrete setting.
Having heard the forecast of a storm for the weekend, we spent Saturday morning picking most of our remaining fruit. We picked all the remaining plums, most of the remaining apples, and, for the first time, our grapes. Just in the one morning's picking, we harvested about 50 pounds of plums, probably about 75 pounds of apples, and 10 pounds of grapes. Our next job will be to figure out what to do with them all! The deer already get the rejects, we have been eating a lot of them, and Wendy has been freezing and making sauce and jam. Next, we will have to try juicing them. Clearly, one of our projects in the future is going to have to be some form of food storage facility, such as a root cellar.
This weekend, we treated ourselves to a little trip, down to Salt Spring Island, the largest of the Gulf Islands, for the annual Apple Festival. Weather-wise, it couldn't have been worse timing, since the two days of our trip councided precisely with the two-day storm. However, we dressed for the weather and enjoyed ourselves anyway.
On Saturday afternoon, we drove down on the old highway as far as Parksville, partly because it is more scenic, but also because the big highway is unsafe in wet weather. We stayed overnight in a motel at Chemainus, and then, this morning took the ferry over to Salt Spring Island. (In hindsight, if we did the trip again, we could leave Denman on the 6:40 am ferry and still make the 9:30 ferry to Salt Spring.)
The Apple Festival is a one-day tour of about 17 apple orchards on Salt Spring. We started in the Fulford Community Hall, with a display of over 200 different varieties of apples grown on Salt Spring. They were all arranged alphabetically around the hall, with three of four examples of each variety. Some of them are the "grocery store" varieties that most people are familiar with: Macintoshes and Spartans, but many more were heritage varieties that have fallen out of favour with commercial growers for various business reasons, but which are still being preserved by small orchards: Gravensteins, Winesaps, Bramleys, Pippins, etc.. Many of them, in fact, are still growing on century-old trees on Salt Spring, planted by the original European settlers.
Some of the orchards are working mixed farms, including one that is part of a provincial park. The original homesteading family donated most of their land to the province as a park, retaining enough to continue as a working farm and orchard. The farm is integrated into the park as a feature, with interpretive signs and trails. There, we encoutered this big Tom turkey and his harem. We advised them to keep a low profile for the next week or so.
Salt Spring Island is quite a bit larger than Denman Island. In fact, it is the largest of the islands in the Islands Trust area, and the second-largest of all the Gulf Islands (the largest being Texada). It is big enough to have three separate villages on it, which gives the island a totally different feel. The "capital" of the island is Ganges, which has a very urban feel to it. It could be any cutesified small town anywhere in North America. We suspect that the size of the island (population 10,000) and its division into separate villages would give the community a totally different feel from Denman.
We arrived back on Denman on the 8:30 pm ferry. In spite of having an extravagant abundance of our own apples, we couldn't return from a festival empty-handed, so we brought a handfull of Sweet Winesaps with us.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 6-May-2013