St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
Last week, I had you primed for a review of this week's concert with comedian Lorne Elliott. Unfortunately, he had to cancel the performance due to illness. There were a lot of disappointed people on Denman that evening.
We have been puttering in the garden. I continued to install soaker hoses in the various veggie beds. They now have soaker hose in 1/4-inch size, which is much easier to install close to the plants without damaging them than the old half-inch hose was. Once each bed has its hose installed, I cover it with straw mulch. The mulch holds in the moisture, preventing the soil from drying out, and it also cuts down on weed germination and growth.
This climate is perfect for growing all kinds of plants, weeds included. Most gardeners use mulches of various kinds to keep them under control. One well-known gardener down the road from us uses newspapers between his veggies to hold the weeds down.
While I was installing hose and mulching, Wendy was recovering an old burn pile site by covering it with decomposed wood chips and weeds that were removed from the garden when we rejuvenated our pathways. The old wood chips had deteriorated and become invaded by plants of all kinds, to the point that the paths were indistinguishable from undisturbed ground. We would have just composted the lot, but it makes a great quick treatment for an area with no vegetation.
Our red tulips are at their best right now. We have tons of daffodils all over the place, because they are the only spring flower that the deer will not eat, but tulips have to be confined to the fenced garden.
Today, Wendy and I went for a hike from Pickles Marsh to Central Park. The trail runs through mature forest on a quarter section of ccrown land, then comes out onto a quarter section of recovering clearcut, which is our Central Park. It was bought by the Denman Conservancy Association a couple of years ago. It is one of the home areas of the endangered Taylor's Checkerspot butterfly, which was discovered on Denman last year.
Central Park is recovering well from the clearcutting that happened about ten years ago. There are a lot of small hemlock and fir trees growing up, and some very dense thickets of fast-growing alder. We came across this flower that looks somewhat like a bleeding heart. I will have to find out what it is.
The Conservancy has done an excellent job of cleaning up the trails, mostly former logging roads, so that now there is a network of trails to explore. The main trail is the one we hiked, which connects several blocks of Conservancy and crown land into one long hike through some of the most beautiful and interesting areas of Denman.
Even though we didn't get much in the way of April showers, we are enjoying lots of May flowers now.
The apple and other fruit trees are flowering abundantly this week. There are some sizeable orchards on Denman Island. Whether they are actively maintained or not, the blossoms are beautiful. The orchard in the first photo is not ours, but is putting on a great show for passers-by on the road.
Our own fruit trees are contributing to the spring atmosphere too. The composite photo shows some of our apple, plum and pear blossoms.
Meanwhile, we have strawberry blossoms about to open, and the daffodils just keep on flowering. And, on that note, we just received our bulb catalogue in the mail (It seems a trifle early this year!), so it is already time to start thinking of what bulbs we want to plant for next year. I think we can predict that we will choose more daffodils; the supposedly deer-proof crocuses and snowdrops turned out to be a tasty delicacy for our deer. Daffodils are about the only thing they won't eat.
My main gardening activity this week was getting the electric fence ready for repelling marauding raccoons, a rather important chore with a strawberry crop only a few weeks away. Over the winter, movements of the fence and growth of weeds combined to short-circuit it. It took the better part of an afternoon to patrol the entire length of the fence, clipping weeds and repositioning the fence. Of course, it required testing... Even though I was wearing insulating work boots, I can certify it as fully operational. Yeowch!
With the upcoming long weekend next week, the busy season will arrive on Denman. There will be studio tours, nature walks and all kinds of meetings to go to. Public events are, of course, written up in the weekly paper, but an old tree stump at the main intersection downtown is also used as a public notice board. Because the tree is located at the top of the ferry hill and just a few metres from the general store, everyone on Denman has to pass it regularly. Community groups regularly hang notices there for their upcoming events. This was a particularly good week for notices, as you can see.
This week, we took a few days to visit my father in Alberta. We had a very pleasant visit, though we were startled fo see fresh snow on the ground in Calgary!
With the arrival of the Victoria Day long weekend, summer is beginning. The weather suddenly turned warm: we have had some 27° and 29° days. What a concept: nice weather on the long weekend!
We have been busy weeding in the garden, and planting more seeds. In addition to the spinach, lettuce, chard and carrots that have already started growing, we planted mixed mesclun greens, arugula, beets, turnips, parsnips and squash. With the warmer weather, the grape vines are starting to leaf out. They are always about the last to wake up in the spring. If the flowers on the pear trees are any indication, we could be in for a bumper crop of fruit this year: the trees are covered with blossoms.
On Saturday, we went on a nature walk, put on by the Denman Conservancy Association, to the so-called Settlement Lands. Though the name sounds like an historical reference, it actually refers to a legal settlement, in which the Conservancy dropped a lawsuit for illegal logging in exchange for receiving this particular quarter-section. The land is a recovering clearcut and is ecologically significant for several reasons.
For one, it demonstrates the amazing recovery potential of the land. In the five years since we first saw it, it has changed from a moonscape to meadows, brush and young forest. Secondly, it is an important link in a string of protected properties through the middle of Denman Island. Several blocks of Conservancy land and crown land form a contiguous strip of protected forest and wetland.
Thirdly, the Settlement Lands are home to the recently-discovered population of critically endangered Taylor's Checkerspot butterflies. This pretty insect was thought to have been extirpated from Canada until a local biologist discovered this surviving population in 2005, probably founded by the remnants of the last known population from Hornby Island. It prefers open meadows, and its new habitat will become threatened as the clearcut recovers back to forest: a dilemma for the Conservancy.
Though the Checkerspot is rare nationally and internationally, it is easy to find in this area. Wendy and I saw four while walking to the gathering place for the nature walk, and I took this photo of a Checkerspot feeding on strawberry blossoms during the walk.
This weekend was also the weekend for the annual Pottery Tour. We visited the studios of three of our favourite ceramic artists. We blew our budget for artwork in one day as we couldn't resist making purchases at each of the three studios! In the composite photo, the top picture is a copper-glazed bowl with an amazing lustre to which, unfortunately, a photo cannot do justice. This bowl was Gordon Huthchens' latest work, as it was just removed from his kiln this morning, still warm. The vase at lower left was from Tom Dennis' studio, and the face of Helios is the work of Bentley LeBaron.
The Victoria Day long weekend not only brings out butterflies and pottery admirers; it also brings out tourists. There has been a noticeable increase in the number of large SUVs, with tinted windows rolled tightly up, driving around the island and parking downtown. The weather is forecast to turn rainy tomorrow; that'll fix 'em.
Earlier this week, the cougar was shot by a wildlife officer. Or rather, "A" cougar was shot. The Wildlife Committee is not convinced that this cougar is the same one that had been living on Denman all winter. That one would be seen occasionally, but would mind its own business and stay away from people. It hadn't been seen for several months. This week's cougar killed a sheep on a farm and was seen hanging around a barn. And it had an ear tag, indicating that it had been "busted" for being a nuisance in the past. It is sad that any cougar has to be shot. Many Denmanites are hoping that "our" cougar may still be out there, either living happily in Denman forests, or having swum back to Vancouver Island.
With more warm weather, the garden is coming along well. Some of the greens that I planted last week are up already, and the strawberries are flowering like mad. In fact, my project this week is to build a cover for the strawberry patch to keep the birds off. I want to have it in place before the fruit starts to ripen in a couple of weeks.
The other evening, Wendy noticed that, when the sun catches it at just the right angle, our small Japanese maple glows a luminous red. With natural backlighting, this is the result. I promise that the colour was not retouched in this photo.
On Saturday, we went on the annual hike to Tree Island, a small islet just north of Denman Island. At low tide, it is a one km walk across mud flats.
The island is a large sand dune that has been colonized by a small forest. As a result, it has quite a variety of ecosystems from sand dunes to meadows to old growth forest. The hike was led by Andrew Fyson, a retired botanist, and he was able to point out some of the more interesting plants.
The little plant with sand all over its leaves is the sand verbena, which lives in sand dunes. It is home to the rare sand verbena moth, another of our engangered species. The sand grains sticking to the leaves help to reflect excess sunlight, keeping the plant cool on hot sunny days.
Speaking of which, the weather for the hike was ideal. It started off mostly cloudy, but, by mid afternoon, it was almost totally clear. It was warm, but not excessively hot - perfect hiking weather. A total of eight people participated in the hike.
One of the participants was a more experienced hiker, and we picked his brain for ideas on where to hike locally. We have an itch to go on some longer, more challenging hikes sometime soon. There are several hikes in the Beaufort Range of Vancouver Island.
For exercise, I have been riding my bike around the island most days. There is a nice 17 km loop that is all on paved roads. Since it takes the better part of an hour to do the circuit, I can count on having at least one ferry rush pass me, but otherwise, the road is pretty quiet.
Our hummingbirds are on a feeding frenzy this week. Perhaps they are feeding young hatchlings? At any rate, we can't leave home for more than a day because they empty three feeders in a day. Every evening, Wendy mixes up several cups of syrup for the little birds.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 6-May-2013