St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
The garden continues to grow like crazy. We have had the odd sprinkle, but it is weeks since we have had any significant rainfall, so we are very glad to have our rainwater system for irrigation.
This week, I extended the main water feed line to reach all the vegetable beds and berry patches. It makes it more convenient to get water to each bed with less dragging of hoses. About half of it is underground, and the rest will go underground eventually.
I have started demolition of our woodshed (née kid's play fort) to make room for the new improved woodshed that will be built there shortly. What we had was better than nothing, but was unsatisfactory for several reasons: it didn't hold a full season's wood (never mind the following year's wood), the roof was too low, so we were always bonking our heads, and it was too airtight, preventing proper drying of the wood..
The new one will be bigger in all dimensions, and able to hold a two year supply of wood. This is necessary, so that the wood has a chance to dry properly for a full year before being used. It will be open on two sides to allow good air circulation.
On Saturday, we went on another nature walk, this time on the trail from Central Park to Pickles Road. This is the same trail that Wendy and I hiked on our own a month ago. This time, we had a whole herd of people with us, and a botanist leading the group to explain what all the plants were. We managed to stump him on a few plants. The trail includes both some recovering clearcut and some mature second-growth forest.
We are going to have a Fit!
A Honda Fit, that is. It is time to replace my venerable old Civic, and, after researching on the Internet and shopping around the various dealerships in town, we settled on the Fit. It has the second-highest EPA mileage ratings of any conventionally-powered vehicle, and has a reasonable purchase price. We don't actually have the car yet - it is on its way - so this Photoshopped picture of it on our driveway will have to do. Ours will be this colour.
The Civic must have overheard us talking about being replaced, because its battery picked this week to die. Two cells are shorted out, and it is unstartable: it won't even start on the "Start" setting of the battery charger.
When I discovered that, I thought, "Boy, I sure hope we don't have a Fire Department callout." Wouldn't you know it: we did! I had to ride my bike to the firehall. I made it in time to board the last truck ... which also had a dead battery! That vehicle is also imminently due for replacement. Don't ever let a vehicle know that it is being replaced! The fire, fortunately, was quickly contained by other crew members.
Now, I have to have a new battery delivered for the Civic, to last the next couple of weeks. Well, at least it will be a selling point for the new owner.
Last week, I mentioned that one of the Fire Department's trucks was scheduled for imminent replacement. Well, the long-awaited replacement arrived this week. It is a brand new tanker that holds 1500 gallons of water, a 50% increase over the truck it is replacing. It will greatly speed up the delivery of water to a fire scene, as well as improving our reliability. The old tanker, an amateur-built rig, was more than 30 years old and was showing its age.
Although the new truck is designed and intended for delivering water, it is fully equipped for firefighting itself, and could take over as a pumper if something happened to the regular pumper. This means we now have three pumper-capable vehicles, which gives us a lot of flexibility.
Around the house, I have just about finished demolishing the old woodshed. I have the new site staked out for the replacement woodshed already, just waiting for a shipment of lumber to arrive. We have decided to build it in a different location, one that is more convenient to the back door for hauling wood on those cold blustery winter nights. The new location will also mean that our view of the meadow will be opened up.
The garden is doing well. We had a decent rainfall this week; in fact we had almost as much rain in the one week as we had all last month. All the veggies and fruit trees are happy, and so are the weeds. We spent a full day on Saturday weeding. The gardening challenge here is not so much trying to get things to grow. Rather, it is beating back the jungle. So far, we are ahead of the weeds, and the garden looks great. In the photo at left, we have spinach and romaine lettuce in the left row, chard in the middle, carrots at the right, garlic behind, and mint behind that.
Our pear trees are covered with little pears (photo at right), and the apple and plum trees likewise have lots of baby fruit starting to develop. If they all mature, it could be another great year. The raspberry canes are developing well and will start flowering soon, and the strawberries are starting to show a bit of colour already.
We had been getting worried about the lack of rainfall this spring. We have been drawing quite a bit from on our rainwater cistern to keep the garder watered. This week's rain has eased those worries for now. It not only gave the garden a good watering, it also topped up both tanks to full once again. If, as it looks, it turns out to be a dry year, we will be glad of every drop.
This week has been cool but dry: quite pleasant to work in the garden, but not warm enough for anything to be happening there. Our strawberries, which we are usually enjoying for dessert by this time each year, are continuing to grow, but are not ripening. It has just been too cool. Some of them have a bit of a pinkish blush on them, but nothing approaching redness.
I am still waiting for a load of lumber that will, among other things, allow me to build a bird-proof enclosure for the strawberries. Until then, we have cloth covers over the beds, to protect any that might happen to ripen.
Today, Wendy and I went over to Hornby Island to visit a rose nursery there. We wanted a fragrant climbing rose for the west wall of the house, which now gets quite a lot of sunshine ever since we had an ugly maple tree cut down last year. We ended up with a rose called "Bantry Bay" (left), which is supposed to grow up to 12 feet tall. We won't be able to plant it in the ground until the fall. Until then, we will keep it in a pot on the deck.
While on Hornby, we went for a short hike around the Helliwell Bluffs, a rare ecosystem type known as garry oak meadows. We had a perfect day for it: cool and sunny. When we stopped for lunch on the tip of the peninsula, we were greeted by an immature bald eagle who stood on the rocks watching us quite calmly.
The major social event of the week was the Spring Swing Fling, a fundraising dance event for the Denman Conservancy Association. We were fed with a variety of tapas (finger food): puff pastries with mushroom or sundried tomato fillings, hummus rolls (that could more appropriately have been called garlic rolls!), dolmades, nori rolls, marinated tofu kebabs and nettle kopitas. Those were just the vegan items; there were also crab and salmon munchies for those so inclined. It was all very tasty, served by very elegant waiters and waitresses in tuxes and cocktail dresses.
Following the eats, we were treated to a demonstration of west coast swing dancing by a couple of young competitive dancers, followed by a mass lesson in east coast swing. The change in coasts must have confused people, because Wendy and I were not the only ones who didn't quite get the rhythm sorted out. It was fun anyway, though! As with just about all social events here, the hall was packed.
Because I am still waiting on my truckload of lumber, my construction efforts this week have been more along the lines of destruction. I finished demolishing the old woodshed. The site is now cleaned up, and will make a fine sawing and chopping work area.
The truckload of lumber I've been waiting for finally arrived. Or, most of it did, anyway. I am still waiting for several important pieces. They've promised to deliver those "soon", at their expense. They'd better. The missing pieces are evenly distributed among all my various projects, so there's not much I can do without them.
I did get enough to build the most urgent project: a walk-in shelter for the strawberry patch. Up until now, we've been covering the berries with fabric over plastic hoops to protect them from birds. (Just today, as I was working, a robin perched on the fence eyeing the strawberries greedily, licking his beak.) The fabric reduces the amount of light and rain that the berries get, and increases humidity and mold, and it is just a nuisance for weeding and harvesting. Once I staple bird netting to the frame, we will have a nice room where we can stand upright, move about and work freely and still protect the berries. I must have some good karma because, in digging a dozen post holes, I only encountered one rock and two roots.
The strawberries just started to ripen this week. The majority of them are supposed to be June-bearing, and I guess they just made it with a week to spare. The weather has been too cool for ripening until the last couple of days. However, they are catching up now. We picked our first bowl full about an hour before the official beginning of summer. Fresh strawberry shortcake! Yummmmm!
The last couple of days, the weather has been nice enough to go for walks in the evenings. One of our favourite walks is down to Pickles Marsh, less than a kilometre down our street. This time of year, it is home to marsh wrens, red-winged blackbirds and numerous other birds. In the evening, the air is filled with the sounds of birds singing. The marsh is surrounded by a protected nature reserve, so it is a beautiful spot with big old cedars and douglas firs all around.
With the official arrival of summer last week and the accompanying hot weather, we have been harvesting a deluge of strawberries. Strawberry shortcake, strawberry-rhubarb pie, more strawberry shortcake. Did I mention that we like strawberries? Wendy has been making all kinds of strawberry desserts as well as freezing some for later.
My missing lumber finally showed up, so I have started building the new woodshed. It's not much to look at yet - just some footings, a couple of posts and a beam, but, when finished, it will be give us a much more satisfactory place to store our wood. It will hold a two year supply of wood, and it will be tall enough that we don't bonk our heads on the ceiling - a pleasant change, believe me!
Something else that arrived is our car. No pictures yet, though (That's not it on the left!). It's in Courtenay, but we don't actually have it yet. I'm going into town on the early bus tomorrow to pick it up. Tune in next week for pictures.
Our cultural event for the week was the Fire Department's 30th anniversary Canada Day Pancake Breakfast. The weather was superb - sunny and warm - and the turnout was good. At least half the island's population comes out for this big event. The entire department, along with spouses, turns out to serve up pancakes, bacon (with a veggie sausage alternative), stawberries and whipped cream, coffee and juice.
People had fun inspecting our new tanker truck, which was prominently on display, and a lot of kids tried out our brand new Fire Department pedal car. It was donated to our auction earlier this year, and the department members chiped in to purchase it for exactly this kind of event.
Actually, it was a long day of Fire Department activity. We were paged out in the middle of the night for a medical call, then had to get up early for the Pancake Breakfast. Finally, just before supper time, we were called out again for a motor vehicle accident. I hope the rest of the long weekend is quiet!
Of course, this is the beginning of the main tourist season. Traffic across our island is heavy as thousands of vacationers head over to Hornby Island. People rushing to beat the lineup for the next ferry tend to speed...
Just in time for the tourist rush, the Quinitsa, our regular ferry, has returned from its major refit. After months of having two little ferries, it seemed as big as an aircraft carrier! It is all shiny with fresh paint and no rust, and its new engines are remarkably quiet. Of course, the work is not totally finished, and a work crew rides the ferry back and forth all day putting in the final touches.
In the last couple of weeks, the mother deer have been bringing their fawns out into the open. Wendy snapped this picture out our den window.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 20-May-2013