St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
Well, I never would have expected it, but I got my old rank back!
This week's fire practice was the Department's Annual General Meeting. Along with various reports, there was a bit of a shuffle among the officers. One of the two deputy chiefs stepped down, one of the captains was promoted to deputy chief, and another captain is going to be concentrating on starting up a Fire Department Auxilliary. The result was that there were two captain vacancies, and I was appointed to one of them.
I guess that will mean more training. In particular, I will likely get to be the Incident Commander the next time we have a live fire practice. Time to crack the books!
I have already been issued my shiny new red helmet. For easy identification on a fire scene, ranks are denoted by the colour of one's helmet: yellow for firefighter, red for captain, blue for deputy chief, and white for chief. Our blue for deputy chiefs seems to be unusual, but the other colours are fairly standard across North America.
It remains cold (for us) here. Temperatures have been on the low side of normal for a couple of weeks now, even though we have had quite a few sunny days. (It`s that darned arctic airmass infiltrating across the strait from Canada.) We still have snow on the ground that stubbornly refuses to melt, while most other places on Denman are snow-free. Being up on the ridge, our house seem to have had more snow than most areas to begin with. The sun does not climb above our treetops yet, so it isn't melting as fast as elsewhere. It is going to take a major heatwave or a major rainstorm to melt it.
With the cold and snow, there hasn`t been much opportunity for outdoor work. I have started building a shelving unit for the kitchen. It is nice having a well-equipped workshop for such work.
Yesterday, we went into Courtenay to attend the World Community Film Festival, an annual festival of documentary films. This is our second year attending it, and the films were every bit as good as last year. We saw films on biodynamic farming in India; an AIDS clinic in southern Africa; whales and the scientist who discovered whale song; sweatshop textile workers in China; the antiwar movement within the U.S. armed forces during the Vietnam era; a primary school from a refugee camp in a war-torn region of Uganda that entered in a music and dance competition against all the other schools in their country; and the story of a military observer in the Darfur area of Sudan and his struggle to bring the deterioring situation there to the world's attention (deja vu Rwanda). And that was only a fraction of the films that were being shown! We kept the program so that we can rent the ones we missed.
The film on the Ugandan schoolchildren (called War / Dance) was especially moving. The kids, all refugees from the civil war there, many traumatized by the conflict, worked together with dedication and abundant talent to earn the respect of their more fortunate peers from more peaceful areas of the country. It has been nominated for an Academy Award, deservedly so, in our opinion.
It has been an interesting week for weather. On Tuesday, we had a big storm, with lots of rain and high winds. It brought in warmer weather, though. The combination of higher temperatures and rain finally melted the last of the snow. It is so nice to be able to park the car in the driveway again!
On Thursday, I decided to take advantage of the warm weather to prune the apple, plum and pear trees. I entered the garden and, where I expected to see apple trees, I saw a great big douglas fir. Apparently, on Tuesday evening, a big tree beside the neighbour's driveway had come down onto our garden fence.
My first thought was to grab the chainsaw, not the camera, so I only have "after" pictures to show you. When I first saw the tree, it was supported by the fence, eight feet in the air, totally blocking the view of the first apple tree. The pictures show the pile of branches and the bucked up trunk of the fir.
The garden fence was a bit crunched, bit not too badly. The fir just missed the apple trees. It was a big tree, maybe 100 feet tall and 16 inches across at the butt end. More free firewood!
The fruit trees did get pruned once the wood was taken care of, and they look a lot better for it.
On Thursday, we attended a meeting on solar hot water, put on by our local renewable energy group. Since the only conventional heating sources for hot water here are electricity or propane, solar hot water makes a lot of sense economically, in addition to the environmental benefits. The meeting described some of the different solar configurations, and some folks described their experiences with building their own systems.
Wendy and I have been thinking about installing a solar hot water system in a couple of years, once we get caught up on some of our other projects. It is a practical retrofit for an existing house. Since the sun never clears the treetops in winter at our house, we would only use it for three seasons of the year. This simplifies the design, since we would not need frost protection. Our neighbours across the street are planning to install a system this year, so we will be checking with them to see how it goes.
On Friday, we attended a birthday party for two of our friends, Bentley and Doug, both of whom turned 70 this year. (Actually, Bentley turned 70 last year, but he postponed the celebration so they could celebrate it together.) There were probably about 100 people there, and the cool thing was that we knew most of them. We probably knew as many people in that one room as we did in the whole of Calgary when we lived there.
Today, the weather forecast called for lots of rain. It did rain heavily for a short time, but then cleared up into a very nice, mild day. We took advantage of the unexpectedly pleasant weather to do more log splitting and post-hole digging. I have the post holes ready for concrete now.
While we were outside working, we could hear tree frogs croaking in the woods. Winter must be over!
The weather has finally been warm enough and dry enough for outdoor work, so I have been working on the post footings for the side deck of the studio. Digging holes, cutting rebar, mixing concrete, pouring footings, cutting and positioning sonotube, mixing more concrete, pouring columns, setting anchor bolts. It was a major performance. Like all construction jobs, just getting it above ground level takes half the effort. However, I now have a nice row of concrete post footings ready to take the posts that will support the side deck and its roof.
Whenever the weather has been too cold or too wet for outdoor work, I have been working on an indoor project: a shelving unit for the kitchen.
Between rising ferry fares and global warming, we have decided to limit our trips into town to once every two weeks. Eventually, we want to cut them down to once a month. However, that means that we need to have two weeks' or a month's worth of groceries on hand. Wendy keeps a lot of her baking and cooking supplies in plastic bags in a drawer. The drawer is already too crowded, hence the need for more shelves.
The shelves will hold mason jars for storing beans, raisins and such things, as well as canned goods. I applied the second coat of stain today. The final touch will be a low fence across the front of each shelf to keep earthquakes and wayward cats from knocking jars off the shelves.
It is so nice to have a good workshop to be able to do such projects!
Our cultural event this week was a fashion show, put on as a fundraiser for the Renewable Energy Denman Island (REDI) group. REDI is planning to install solar-powered emergency lighting in the Community Hall. In the big storm last winter, many people who had no heat or power used the hall as an emergency shelter. The idea of the emergency lighting is that, if that need ever arises again, life in the hall will be a bit more bearable. It is also a highly public showcase project for the benefits and practicality of solar power. The fashion show was to raise money for that project.
This was no ordinary fashion show. All the costumes were made from clothing and materials picked up at the popular Denman Island Free Store, or from other recycled material. Some of the costumes were serious and some were goofy, but all showed amazing creativity.
Wendy was one of the models, showing three different costumes. In this photo, she is wearing an elegant pink outfit made from a recycled bathrobe.
The final photo shows one of the less serious outfits. Well known local gardener Sandy Kennedy is wearing what appears to be her entire garden, made from recycled decorations from some floral-themed event in the Community Hall.
The fashion show featured a band (The Free-Cycled Four) playing instruments made from Free Store kitchen utensils (plus a non-recycled electric bass), as well as our local chapter of the Raging Grannies, singing songs of recycling. A dessert counter offerd a wide range of sweet treats, including several vegan options.
The event was well-attended, with standing room only in the hall. I haven't heard the word on the final door receipts, but it appeared to be a smashing success.
Tonight, we will be going to another concert in the Arts Denman concert series, for which we have season tickets. Tonight's concert features Silk Road, a Chinese-Western duo, and Chinese Acrobats. Tune in next week for a review.
Last Sunday evening's concert was actually two events on one program. The first half consisted of a troup of Chinese acrobats doing plate spinning, juggling, and acrobatics. In one of the most impressive acts, one of the performers balanced on a board on a roller while flipping multiple dishes from the opposite end of the board onto her head. She started with one dish and worked her way up to four at a time, ending up with ten dishes on her head.
The second half of the program was a concert by the duo Silk Road. The music was played on a pipa (Chinese lute), accompanied by guitar. We have heard them before at the Calgary and Canmore folk festivals, and really enjoyed them every time. The music spanned a wide variety, from traditional Chinese tunes to Irish jigs and reels. The pipa gives quite a different flavour to celtic music!
Our shopping trip to Courtenay was unremarkable except for a couple of unmistakable signs of impending spring. We saw someone washing their car the old-fashioned way with a sponge and bucket, something you would never see on the prairies in February. The other was an outdoor display of primulas for sale at Thrifty's.
Speaking of flowers, our snowdrops and crocuses were a disappointment. They were set back, no doubt, by the cold spell we had at the end of last month. The tops were also nibbled by deer. They are supposed to be deer-proof, but the deer didn't know that. Deer have to learn what they can eat, which means that the young ones nibble everything before deciding, "Nope, don't like that." We may still see some snowdrops, but they will likely bloom along with the daffodils in a little while. The daffies are up now, and are looking healthy. Quite a few of the bulbs have multiplied and are coming up in clusters.
This week, B.C. Ferries started work on widening the West Denman ferry hill. Because the ferry terminal on the west side of Denman Island has no apron area to speak of (it holds at most six cars), people waiting for the ferry queue up on the road leading down to the dock. Since the road is only a narrow two-lane road, and the queue is often well over fifty cars long, this leaves only one lane available for two-way traffic. In the minutes before the incoming ferry docks, a lot of cars head down the hill in the wrong lane to drop off foot passengers. This poses a problem, because the same cars have to come back up the hill in the same lane. It is not uncommon for a downhill car to have to back all the way up the hill to yield to an uphill car.
While B.C. Ferries doesn't like to spend money, someone apparently whispered the word "liability" to them and they quickly decided that they needed to add a queueing lane to the road. For the next five weeks, they will be culverting and filling in the ditches to make room for the additional lane. As part of the fun, the contractor has decided to obtain gravel from Vancouver Island instead of from Denman Island, so most ferry sailings will be transporting one or two tandem dump trucks of gravel. Weight and stability requirements for the ferry mean that there will be little additional room for cars. This is the small ferry, since our regular ferry is still off in drydock being overhauled. They plan to add a second ferry to the run ... in about five weeks' time!
To help islanders keep an eye on the construction and the ferry lineups, Del Phillips, who resides on the ferry hill, has set up a webcam of the fun.
We had a big maple tree near the house cut down this week. The tree was not pretty, leaning at a drunken angle. It had large branches that were threatening to overhang the house, and it blocked the light. With nothing going for it, and several strikes against it, we called in an arborist, and now it is firewood.
This week's eclipse of the moon would have been a spectacular sight, as it would have been rising over Hornby Island. Unfortunately, it was cloudy, so all we noticed was that the night wasn't as bright as it should have been. There'll be another one in 2011.
My projects have been continuing. I completed the shelving unit for the kitchen, and it is now installed. Outdoors, I spent a lot of time sculpting two of the eventual four columns that will support the covered deck along the side of the studio building. I say "sculpting" because it takes a lot of chisel work to carve out the various beam pockets. Each beam has to fit precisely into its pocket. You don't dare make a mistake, because the 6x6 posts cost a bundle.
The two posts are finished and installed. It was a great relief to haul them into position and find out that the beam pockets lined up and fit perfectly.
Today, a gorgeous day, we went for a walk on a trail we have been meaning to check out for a while. It turned out to be the remains of an old logging road, so it was easy hiking. Along the way, we stopped at the Pickles Marsh bridge and noticed clouds of insects swarming above each clump of vegetation in the marsh. Another sign of spring.
The trail led us in an unexpected direction, ending up on the summit of Denman Ridge, with a magnificent view over Baynes Sound. On the way back home, we spotted large numbers of bald eagles soaring in the ridge lift and thermals. We counted sixteen eagles visible at one time. The best I could do in one photo was nine.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 6-May-2013