St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
When you tuned in last week, I left you with a cliff-hanger. Would the house movers come back? Would the building fit the foundation? Would the building end up as a pile of kindling?
Well, they came back with a new tire, changed it (under the building!), got the building aligned, and set it down on the foundation in one piece. The foundation almost fit. My measurements were accurate, but, silly me, I had assumed the building was square (not square as in having four equal sides, but square as in having four 90° corners). It turned out that it was out of square by more than three inches. So, a couple of the corners will look a little odd on close examination, but a wraparound deck can cover a multitude of sins.
The official name for the building is now the "studio". I have been working underneath it this week, getting it bolted down to the new sills, and starting to get the utilities connected. I should have electricity in the studio by later in the week.
With the studio building no longer in its old location, our house is much more visible from the road than it used to be. We like having a privacy and sound screen between us and the road, so we have planted a cedar hedge. It may seem odd planting trees in a forest, but very few Denman houses are visible from the roads, and that's the way we like ours to be.
It has been a quiet week for community events. No concerts or meetings to go to. There is a good concert coming up next week, though, the Gryphon Trio, which should be really good.
Usually, when we have deer visit us, we just see the does and fawns. Yesterday, we had a big buck come for a visit, with nice shiny fresh antlers. He even stopped eating long enough to pose for his picture.
And, speaking of wildlife, Owen can't resist sniffing at Wendy's flowers.
I held off posting this week's Denman Diary until Monday morning, because I wanted to be able to include a review of last night's concert. However, I ended up with a bit more news than I bargained for, and this is being written on generator power on Monday afternoon.
First things first. The concert, by the Gryphon Trio, was excellent. They played trios by Beethoven and Ravel, and an interesting and beautiful piece written specifically for them by a Ukrainian composer named Silvestrov. An excellent concert, and, as always, it was well attended.
The music, however, was accompanied by the pounding of rain on the roof and a few choice thunderclaps. We had a doozy of a storm, which started in the afternoon and intensified all night. When I last checked the rainfall for the day, just before we left for the concert, it was reading 50mm. It undoubtedly reached 80mm or thereabouts before the power went out at 11:30 pm. (Luckily, the concert was long over by that time!) I won't be able to check the final rainfall numbers until I can turn on my other computer, which I can't run on generator power.
Overnight, the rain lashed down and the wind got up to the freight-train roar that indicates it is over 80km/h. This morning, when we woke up, the tops of the trees were swaying back and forth in a 30 or 40 foot arc.
While it was not as bad as last year's hurricane, it was a pretty good blow. They say that, with climate change, we had better get used to it.
We are indeed fairly well prepared for an extended power outage. In addition to the generator, we have a drawer stocked with flashlights and spare batteries, a battery-powered radio, flashlights beside the bed, headlamps to read or work by, and a wood stove that we can cook on. With the generator running, we can run lights, a laptop computer, and most importantly, the fridge, freezer and water pump. We have running water, but not hot water.
With about 190,000 hydro customers without power in this storm, no one here expects power to be restored for a few days. BC Hydro is not answering their phone, and their website doesn't even acknowledge that Denman Island is without power. If we run out of gasoline for the generator, it will mean a trip across to Buckley Bay on the ferry, to fill up our jerry cans there. There is a gas pump at the general store here on Denman, but, without power, it doesn't work!
Today, Wendy and I went out for a walk to survey the damage. There were quite a few trees down across roads, and a few down on power and phone lines. Road crews were chainsawing most of the trees that are blocking roads, but they won't touch trees that are on power lines. As I mentioned, the storm also produced heavy rain, and there were some flooded roads. The third photo shows one flooded section that we faced on our walk. We were debating whether to take off our shoes and wade across or turn back when we heard a vehicle approaching from behind us. I stuck out my thumb, and the driver gave us a lift across the flood.
Further along on our walk, as we passed by the Community Hall, we saw some people were taking full advantage of the conditions. Two teenagers were actually surfing on a flooded section of lawn beside the hall! It took a good running jump to get going, but they were able to surf across almost the entire width of the puddle.
In other news, earlier this week, I had a busy day on Thursday. In the morning, just as I was about to get started on the day's construction chores, my fire department pager went off. It has been an exceptionally quiet year for callouts, with no fires and very few medical incidents. In this case, there was no actual fire, but a bit of smoke from a burned out washing machine motor. Still, it made for a bit of excitement. Then, later in the day, there was a second callout, this time for a medical incident. Considering that we also had Fire Department practice that evening, and that we get paid per callout or practice, it was a busy day of Department work.
The same day, I had two house calls and a phone consultation in my professional capacity as a computer guy. So, not a bad day's work for a non-work day!
Yesterday morning, before the storm hit, we attended Denman Island's Remembrance Day service at the Seniors' Hall. Last year's one was so well attended that they had to move it to a larger venue this year - the gymnasium. This year, again, there were a lot of people there. With Nov. 11th being on a Sunday, the two churches (Unnited and Anglican) cancelled their services so that people could attend the Remembrance Day ceremony. About 10% of the community showed up, which would be unheard-of in most communities.
We finally got our power back from last week's storm on Wednesday at lunchtime. The total length of the power failure was 60 hours 45 minutes.
After last year's eight-day power outage, generators have proliferated on Denman Island. Whereas last year, all you could hear after a storm was the snarl of chainsaws, this year we could hear the whine of generators from all directions. I did some of my computer work on generator power, although, to conserve gas, I spread it out over three days instead of my normal two. (By the way, the only computer that one can safely operate on generator power is a laptop; you are likely to fry any other computer.)
If we run out of other projects on the house, we would like to add a solar backup lighting system. We have the generator for the big loads: the fridge, freezer and water pump, but it seems silly to burn gasoline just for reading lights in the evening, especially since the day or two after a big storm is typically bright and sunny, perfect for solar energy.
Since my last entry, I surveyed the property and found a few new trees down. There should be enough for next winter's firewood. One tree way in the back by the marsh pulled out its entire root ball. I use the word "ball" lightly, because it was more of a root pancake: twelve feet high and sixteen feet wide, but only one foot thick!
This week, our big event was a meeting called by the Islands Trust to hear the community's views on the proposed development of the north third of the island. The community has been quite divided over the issue of what kind of development to permit. Many people still harbour bitter resentment over the rape and pillage of the land by loggers a few years ago. The objective of Saturday's meeting was for the Local Trust Committee (our local land-use governing body) to hear the entire spectrum of views on the matter in order to make their decision on the development proposal, and to begin the process of healing the community divisions.
The meeting was a brilliant piece of conflict resolution work, being facilitated by an imported conflict resolution specialist. It began with some creative presentations, from a five-member panel, of potential solutions other than the obvious ones of "yea or nay" to the proposal. Then, the rest of the meeting was an open mike session. The hall was packed beyond its legal capacity, and an eventual total of 74 speakers got up to say their piece. The facilitator gave each speaker exactly two minutes to make his or her point, and enforced the time limit ruthlessly.
The result was that we got to hear from everyone who wanted to speak. There was no time for grandstanding or propagandizing, so people were concise and to the point. Some notoriously rambling speakers even completed their presentations with seconds to spare. More to the point, everyone in the community respected the process and each other. I got the sense that there was something of a consensus developing around one or two of the panel's proposals.
Towards the end of the meeting (it lasted five hours), we had a bit of drama when the financial backer of the developers' group got up to speak and demanded more than his fair share of time. After having spent several hours restricting ourselves to two minutes each, there was no tolerance in the room for his request, and the facilitator did not grant him any extra time. Whereas other speakers had accepted the facilitator's cutoff more or less graciously, he ended up stalking off in a huff, threatening to take his ball and go home. Instead of using the opportunity to win people over, he alienated everyone.
After the meeting had adjourned, he came back and started to harangue our Trustees, raising his voice and waving his finger in front of their faces. A scrum developed around the scene as people stopped to watch. I suspect that, had he laid a finger on any of our Trustees, he would have been torn limb from limb. We may disagree with each other on this island, but when an outsider comes in and disrespects our community processs and our community leaders, we unite pretty easily!
Our free entertainment is much better than anything you would pay for elsewhere!
I came away with a sense of pride that we as a community were able to come together over the most contentious issue that has occurred here in quite a few years, and have a calm, respectful and informative discussion over it. Between the meeting process itself and the incident with the rich guy, I got the sense that we are a cohesive community that respects its diversity. Two and a half years ago, I wrote, "We look forward to living ... where the guy you disagree with about politics at the community hall might be the same guy who will pull your car out of a ditch with his tractor." This is indeed that kind of community.
One hopeful note that came out of the meeting: it appears that discussions are under way with Parks Canada aimed at including Chickadee Lake, one of the prime locations under consideration for development, into the Gulf Islands National Park. It sounds like the federal officials are favourable to the idea. It would be an excellent outcome. Keeping the lake undeveloped and publicly accessible has been one of the main objectives of a large portion of the community.
Alas, my red truck has gone to the happy parking lot in the sky. Or, at least to the happy junkyard on Denman. It started last week, when I booked it in to get a new pair of rear tires. The old tires both had slow leaks and needed replacing. Last Friday, I took it into town on our regular shopping day, and dropped it off at Canadian Tire.
While killing time in the store, I heard my name being paged on the P.A. system. I returned to the service desk and was told that they had tried to hoist it, but had had to cancel the attempt as the frame had started to bend. They took me back into the service bay and showed me: the truck had a noticeable hunch-backed look, and there was a pile of rust and scale on the floor under it.
Apparently, the frame had rusted out right in the middle of the chassis. Although the rust had obviously been there for a while, the attempt to hoist the truck had clearly done some new damage. We completed our errands in town with the minumum of driving and returned home at a prudent speed. The diciest part of the trip was driving over the speed bumps in the ferry apron and the hinge joints on the ramp. Watching the frame flex in the side mirror as I drove over them, I knew that this was the truck's last trip off the island.
I called up our local old car "collector" and arranged to drop it off the next day. If the new owner feels like doing some welding, I may yet see the truck with its funky wooden box driving around the island. Otherwise, it will be a source of parts for the numerous Mazda owners on the island.
We have had some frosty weather this week, but also a few nice days, good for working outdoors. Today, however, it looks like winter is here.
I would have posted this diary entry on Sunday night, but I was having trouble getting Photoshop to open to process the truck picture. (It was a Windows thing.) It was getting late, so I decided to post it Monday morning. However, when we saw the forecast for nasty weather today, and nice weather later in the week, we decided to make today a town day, saving the sunny weather for outdoor work. It rained in Courtenay, and, on the way back to Buckley Bay, the raindrops on the windshield were starting to get icy cores. As we got off the 2:00 ferry and drove up the hill, the rain turned to snow. It is coming down heavily, and is starting to stick.
I have parked the car at the end of the driveway as a precaution, and we have lots of gas for the generator.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 6-May-2013