St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
Weather is a big story this week. Those of you who follow my weather page regularly may have noticed some irregularities in my rainfall readings this week. I can assure you that we did not really have 400 metres of rain on Tuesday! Monday's heavy rain that turned to snow caused my rain gauge to malfunction. The outlet ports froze, and the rain or melted snow that continued to flow through the gauge backed up and flooded the interior of the instrument, including the electronics. Drying it out restored normal operation, fortunately, and I have drilled drainage holes in the base of it to prevent a recurrance. I have also corrected the recorded rainfall amounts using my backup rain gauge (a.k.a. a bucket).
Today was the first day of the two-day Denman Island Craft Fair. The fair uses all the space in both the Community Hall and the Seniors' Hall, and showcases arts and crafts from many of the talented people on the island. It is one of the island's major events of the year, and there are typically a lot of off-island visitors, come to do some Christmas shopping. We go every year just because it is fun. We couldn't resist making a couple of purchases: a hand-woven cloth, and a crystal-glazed dish made by ceramic artist (he's not just a potter) Gordon Hutchens (third photo).
The weather was also a part of the craft fair story: another major snowfall has dumped 10cm or so of snow on Denman Island. It started snowing in the morning and just got heavier as the day went on. Attendance at the fair was down noticeably. Where normally there wouldn't be room to move around the craft booths, today you could see open floor and could cross the hall in less than twenty minutes. People either didn't come at all, or left early in order to avoid bad roads on the way home.
Wendy and I drove down to the fair in the morning, because she had to drop off a lemon tart she had baked for the dessert table. We looked around one of the two halls, and then decided that the snow was getting heavy enough that we should take the car home and walk back downtown for the second half. This turned out to be a good move, because, when we were walking home in the early afternoon, vehicles were having trouble getting up the big hill.
The car is parked up at the top of the driveway, and, for the first time, I put chains on it. I am not intending to drive anywhere, but if there is a fire department callout, I am still expected to respond, bad roads or not. Bad weather increases the chances of a callout: for fire as people stoke their stoves up and crank up their heaters, or for a motor vehicle accident with the bad roads. The fire trucks also wear chains in this weather.
In other events this week, we attended a lively meeting of the Denman Island Residents' Association, complete with an imploding Economic Enhancement Committee and a Dock Committee valiantly struggling to overcome our status as the only inhabited island in the known universe without a public dock.
I attended a Photography Club meeting on Tuesday. The fourth photo on this page is one of my entries for this month's meeting. The orange things are chinese lantern plants, a relative of gooseberries. The seed pods dry and turn orange, and remain on the stalk all winter.
This morning, before going to the Craft Fair, we attended a meeting with a couple of opposition MLAs about the ferry situation. The rate of fare increases on the "small" routes such as ours is astronomical, the result of the insane ideologically-driven policies of the Campbell government, and its desire for privatization at any cost. It is particularly hard on low-income residents, which has a negative effect on the demographics of the community. With the help of the MLAs, we plotted some action to raise public awareness. Expect to hear more about this in the spring.
Last week, when I wrote, the snow was falling on the Denman Island Craft Fair. Well, it continued to snow right into Monday, when we got hit by a "Pineapple Express". That is a weather system that comes straight from Hawaii, with heat and tropical rainfall. My rainfall gauge got flooded out again, but according to my backup bucket, we received 100mm of rain, the wettest day so far since I began recording rainfall. The temperature zoomed up to 10 degrees, and most of the weekend's snow disappeared overnight. The first photo shows melting snow pouring off our roof.
Naturally, with weather like that, the power went off again. Luckily this time, the fault occurred on Vancouver Island. Luckily, I say, because power outages that happen over there get fixed faster. The power came back on on Monday afternoon, but went off again on Tuesday for a few more hours.
Shortly after the power came back on on Monday, the fire department was called out to attend to a tree down on a power line with flames visible. There is not a lot we can do for power line problems, but we went to the scene to find a bit of insulation on a wire burning and dripping molten fire into the tree that had caused the problem. Fortunately, everything (except the insulation) was too wet to burn. The burning section was only a few inches long, and the flames were less than six inches high. Not exactly a major conflagration.
We confirmed that the breaker on the circuit was off, but we do not use a hose stream on electrical wires, even ones that are believed to be off, in case a wire is still live. With so many more people having generators this year, that is a definite risk. We were faced with the prospect of being stuck at the scene until BC Hydro arrived, an event we do not hold our breaths waiting for around here. One of our firefighters came up with the brilliant idea of delivering water to the fire in a form that ensured no risk to ourselves: snowballs! Several firefighters with good pitching arms proceeded to bombard the flames and scored several direct hits. With a final sizzle, the flames went out, and we were able to stand down. Believe it or not, that was the only fire the department has put out all year (touch wood).
It was a busy week at work, with another major system implemtation to do. I had to work part of Tuesday on generator power, but fortunately, the power came back on and has stayed on since. (Touching wood again!)
My rain gauge has been dried out again and is back online, and I have plans for some major waterproofing of it this coming week.
The weather has stayed cool and we had a little bit more snow this weekend. My outdoor work has been cutting firewood. I noticed a small tree down near the driveway after last weekend's weather, so I went out with the chainsaw to cut it up. Upon investigation, however, it turned out to be merely the final domino in the line. It and another medium sized tree had been taken out by a full-sized douglas fir. We now have a growing pile of firewood waiting to be split for next year's fuel supply.
On Saturday, evening, we attended the annual Fire Department Christmas Dinner. It is an occasion to socialize with the other members and their spouses, to review the year's activities, and to recognize the serious and lighter highlights of the year. Although we didn't partake of the ham and turkey, there were plenty of veggie dishes, and we had a great time. I was surprised to find out that I was awarded the Firefighter of the Year award! I think it was mostly for good attendance at practices, but hey, a plaque is a plaque.
The rain held off for most of this week, which allowed me to get a bit of outdoor work done. With a forecast for several nights in a row to remain above freezing, I was able to complete the masonry work on the studio foundation. Because I was building the wall under the already-positioned building, the only feasible way to do the work was from inside the crawlspace. A good set of kneepads is indispensible for such work!
With the foundation wall complete, I have started digging the footings for the deck posts.
My other outdoor project has been collecting firewood from some of our blown-down trees. There were quite a few in a thick section of forest near the road, from several storms ago, so I spent a few hours harvesting those. I also noticed a few new blowdowns after the most recent storm, so I'll be going after those next. We have nearly a cord of wood piled behind the woodsheed now, the start of next season's firewood. Our objective is to have next winter's supply ready by the spring, so it can season well over the summer.
Yesterday, as we were going about our chores, Wendy spotted a large husky dog wandering through our property. We knew it didn't belong to any of our neighbours, and that it had no business being here. Dogs running loose often chase deer, usually not for food, but for sport. It is a major problem on Denman. Typically, dogs will inflict serious injuries on the deer, which then wander off die a slow, painful death. Though we didn't see this dog chasing deer, we had our suspicions. We couldn't allow him to carry on on his own, so we locked him in the garage until we could figure out what to do with him.
We called a member of our local wildlife committee who told us that - surprise - a dog matching his description had been seen chasing deer. The wildlife committe has facilities for holding stray dogs in jail, so the committee member came over and collected the dog, who will be held until the owner comes to pick him up. No doubt, the owner will also receive an earful about letting his dog run loose.
On Friday evening, we walked downtown for Denman Island's one and only late night shopping event of the year: "Midnight Madness". All the downtown stores and businesses stay open until 9:00. It is primarily a social event, and very little actual shopping gets done. However, we did contribute to the local economy by buying two chocolate mini-cupcakes, two Denman Island Chocolates, and a magazine.
Today, we had a major deluge of rain: 36mm so far, and it is still raining.
Today was also the day the Fire Department put the lights on the Denman Island Christmas tree. Why they don't just plant a real, growing, permanent tree, I don't know, but every year they set up a 25-foot cut tree on the lawn of the Anglican church, right downtown. Someone with a backhoe does the work of setting up the tree, and the Fire Department strings the lights (because we have ladders, I guess).
So, a group of firefighters spent an hour in the pouring rain, in ankle-deep water (the lawn of the church was flooded), putting together a couple of hundred feet of Christmas lights and passing them up to one lucky guy up at the top of the tree on a ladder. Did you know that Christmas lights will work underwater? (Kids, don't try this at home!) We got wet and cold, but the tree looks fine. It would have been very photogenic, had I felt like getting my camera soaked. Luckily, another firefighter who has a blog didn't mind getting his camera lens wet. His picture of the light-stringing features me (back to the camera) supervising. [Dave Tweedie's blog]
This evening was the big Denman Island Christmas Dinner. This is a huge event that fills both the main hall and the back hall of the Community Centre. Everyone on the island is invited, and most attend during two sittings. Incredibly, it is put on for free, with a huge amount of volunteer effort, and the pot-luck contributions of many of the attendees. They even had a special table of vegan/vegetarian food, complete with "vegan police" to make sure that no meat-eaters sampled the tofurkey.
We were nervous all day that the power would go off, as the heavy rain was accompanied this morning by high winds. With so many people cooking and baking for the big meal, a power failure would have been a disaster. Luckily, it didn't happen.
Once again I didn't need my camera, because another Denman blogger had the meal covered. [Harold Birkeland's blog]. That's Wendy and me with our backs to the camera in his second picture.
Can you tell I didn't take any interesting photos this week? My contribution is Pickles Marsh.
This week's photos may be lacking in white stuff, but that is just fine with us. However, in keeping with the spirit of the season, here's a bit of holly to give Christmas cheer. We have some holly in the back of our property, but it all seems to be of one gender. You need boys and girls to get berries. Out along Northwest Road, there is a fine pair of holly bushes, with the female just covered in berries.
We have noticed this week that the mother deer have now left their youngsters. Up until last week, the mothers and young came around the house begging for apples together. Now, the mothers are nowhere to be seen, but the youngsters are still hanging around. They look particularly healthy this year. This picture was taken from our front door.
The snow comes and goes fairly quickly here. We will often wake up to snow on the ground, but it will have melted by late afternoon. At the first hint of snow, we move the car up to the top of the driveway, since the hill on it becomes impassible with only a couple of centimetres.
Across Baynes Sound on the big island, the snow line comes almost down to the water. With the ever-expanding clearcuts, the mountains of the Beaufort Range look whiter all the time.
My projects this week have included repairing the front of the studio building. The building mover had to cut openings in the pony wall for his big beams to go through to support the building during the move. Those are now patched and closed up, ready for siding.
I have also been continuing to salvage firewood from the various blowdowns. There is enough wood lying on the property to keep us in firewood for a long time without having to cut down any live trees. Finally, we are getting ahead of the seasons: getting next year's wood ready before the summer, so it has time to dry thoroughly. My goal is to have at least two cords stacked before spring.
On Saturday morning, we spent a couple of hours at the Community School helping a group of volunteers pack Christmas hampers for some of the less fortunate on our island. Even in paradise, there is a need for a food bank. With some people wrapping presents and others packing groceries, we soon had 32 hampers full to overflowing. Each hamper was designated for a specific family or individual, with groceries and presents packed with their needs in mind. Later, other volunteers drove the hampers to their intended recipients.
Last night, we attended a Christmas party at a friend's house. There were about fifteen people there, with enough of them being vegan or vegetarian that all the food was vegan. Yay! Wendy's contribution to the pot-luck was an espresso-gingerbread cake, which was the hit of the meal. Unfortunately, we had to share it with all the other people, so the pieces were pretty small. She is going to make another one just for us soon. Bwah-ha-ha!!
The final picture this week was taken today, I swear! Wendy is a witness. This rose, down by the Arts Centre, clearly decided it was in a festive mood and decided to bloom regardless of (or becasue of) the season.
Happy New Year!
Last week, I mentioned an espresso-gingerbread cake that we didn't get enough of at a pot-luck dinner. Well, we liked it so much that Wendy made another one! And this time, it was all ours! [*evil cackle here*] The cake has shredded ginger root in the batter. The icing is a coffee icing, with chunks of candied ginger on top. It was very spicy and very, very good!
Christmas was uneventful, which is the way we like it. We talked to family on the phone, read, and basically took it easy.
In my ongoing building project, the studio building is now ready for the deck construction to begin. It will be a wraparound deck, with a large area at the front for chairs, facing the forest, a covered walkway along one side, and another sitting area at the back. The deck takes precedence over the interior renovations because we will need to use it to access the door, which, at the moment, is quite a clamber up from ground level.
My main project this week has been to update my weather station. I planned to have it ready for the new year, a logical time to change data record formats, etc.. In order to access the wind instrument and a remote temperature sensor, both of which are located away from the house, I spliced my network into an unused pair of wires in the phone cable. That extended the network out to the electric shack, where the sensors are (or will be) located. I have a mounting bracket made up for the wind sensors, but I need a dry roof before I can go up to install it.
I still have some technical hassles to sort out. I discovered that the voltage regulator on the temperature module throws off enough heat to raise the module's temperature about one degree! I think I can perform some electronic surgery to fix that. It is also picking up some additional heat, probably from the heated building. I may eventually have to build an official Stevenson screen to hold it. In the meantime, I will use the software to compensate for the instrument errors.
I am gradually getting all the weather software components to work with Windows Vista. (Have I ever mentioned how much I hate Vista?) If you monitor my weather page regularly, you may notice some oddities over the next couple of days. Please be patient!
As a consequence of upgrading the weather software, my old computer will shortly be retired from active weather duty. It is still a good machine, and Wendy is looking forward to getting it as a replacement for her old Windows 98 clunker.
All the best in the new year!
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 20-May-2013