St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
This week's weather has been sunny and mild, perfect for getting things done. I have been working in the studio / cottage, doing electrical and plumbing rough-ins. The electrical work is now done, and I have made a good start on the plumbing. You wouldn't believe how many drawings I have made trying to figure out how to fit the various drain lines into the available space under the floor. It looks like it will all fit, though.
This week, I hosted a meeting of the Trails Committee. The committee has existed for a long time, but there hadn't been much interest in it. Now, with fuel prices and climate change awareness both on the increase, there is a lot more interest in providing routes for non-motorized transportation on Denman. We have some ambitious plans, including trails for recreational hiking as well as a ferry-to-ferry trail across the island. The cross-island trail would have to be built gradually in phases, starting with sections that would allow walkers to avoid the most dangerous stretches of road.
As you can see from the photos this week, our fruit trees are coming along nicely. We have one tree of August apples that didn't do much this year. It is a biennial fruiter, and produced well last year, so this was an off year for it. However, the gravensteins and spartans have a lot of fruit and are starting to ripen, as are the plums and pears. We are keeping an eye on the grapes too, so that we can harvest them before the birds and/or racoons get to them.
This year's baby deer are starting to lose their spots now. We have several families that hang out in our area, and it is not uncommon to see a couple of does and three or four fawns in the meadow at the same time.
On sunny days, our aligator lizard sits out on the rocks near the driveway sunning himself.
This evening, we took advantage of the warm weather to walk down to the beach after supper. It is a 45 minute walk across the width of the island. (This would be one of the last sections of trail to be built, as the road has fairly wide shoulders.) The evening was noticeably short, and by the time we got back, it was getting dark and the bats were starting to fly around.
We have been harvesting fruit this week. Our gravenstein apples are coming ripe one or two at a time. There are plenty that are not yet ripe, so there is no point in picking the whole tree, but if you don't pick the ripe ones, they fall. A lot of them are are big honkers, and end up with a bruise to match when they hit the ground, making them fit only for the deer. So, we pick a few at a time, which is more manageable anyway.
Today, we also harvested pears and plums. We had been warned not to wait until the pears were yellow to pick them, as they would be past their best. So, we had been picking them a bit under-ripe and letting them ripen indoors. However, one of today's pears was just at the peak of ripeness, so I had it for dessert. Yum! There is nothing that can compare to tree-ripened fruit!
Our grapes are close to ripe as well. A couple of days ago, having sampled one and pronounced it as almost edible, I covered the vines with bird netting. Without protection, thieving varmints will clean all the grapes off the vines the day before they are of peak ripeness.
This morning, after checking the tide tables, Wendy and I drove up to the north end of Denman Island and hiked out to Tree Island. Getting there involves several kilometres of beach walking to get from the nearest public access to the north tip of Denman, then a walk across a kilometre of mud and rock flats to Tree Island. We actually extended the trip by hiking across another mud flat to the Seal Islets, just beyond Tree Island.
Along the way, we encountered stranded jellyfish, ranging from saucer-sized to dinnerplate-sized and bigger. This one was the granddaddy of them all, the size of a serving tray. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do for a stranded jellyfish; they are too fragile to move, even if they didn't sting you, and after a short time in the sun, they are pretty much goners anyway.
The same could not be said for this large starfish. It was definitely still alive, clinging to stones with its little tube feet. However, its prospects didn't look good, facing several hours of hot sun. We found a piece of plywood in the driftwood line up the beach, and, using pieces of bark as shovels, scooped him up, rocks and all. We carried him down to the water and plopped him in.
It was a beautiful, warm day, perfect for hiking, and the Seal Islets were a nice, quiet place to stop for lunch. Quiet is a relative term, since, for the entire duration of the hike, we could hear the roar of heavy machinery working at the log dump at Union Bay, across Baynes Sound. It makes us appreciate not having waterfront property, especially waterfront facing Vancouver Island.
You will notice on the picture of Tree Island that there are several boats anchored off the beach. It makes for a pretty picture, but the reality is less savoury.
Tree Island is a popular spot for boaters because there is no enforcement of any kind of rules or regulations. It is not that the regulations don't exist. The island is a provincial park, with all the normal rules that apply to such places. Some of the more important rules - "No Fires" and "Dogs On Leash Only" - are even spelled out in billboard-sized signs with lettering big enough to be read easily without binoculars from 100 metres offshore.
But, because there are no park wardens, the campsite on the island was overrun with drunken yahoos. We saw at least two fires, one of which was unattended, and numerous dogs running loose. (I knocked down the unattended fire.) It wouldn't be so bad if the yahoos were only teenagers. There would be hope that at least some of them would grow out of it. Unfortunately, the yahoos included the crew of a dragon boat, definitely old enough to know better, who, when informed that fires were prohibited, made light of the situation. No wonder the teenagers are such perfect idiots when the adults teach them so well!
Sooner or later, Tree Island is going to burn. By the time they get a water bomber to it, it will be too late to save any of it. And it will be small consolation that the perpetrators would be liable for the water bomber costs. There would be no way to prove which particular idiot was responsible, and the island's unique micro-forest would be gone.
On a lighter note, I have been doing plumbing work in the cottage. I have most of the supply and drain lines roughed in now.
It has been a fairly uneventful week.
I am continuing to work on the bathroom of the studio/cottage. I dismantled the old kitchen cabinet to make way for a new vanity and storage unit. I have one chore that I want to get done soon, before the rainy season starts, which is to cut a hole in the roof for the plumbing vent stack to go through. After weeks without a hint of moisture, I was finally ready to do the deed, and, what happens? The first rain this month, definitely not the time to be making holes in the roof.
However, I have all the materials ready. The first day that looks like giving me several dry hours in a row, I will do the vent installation. That will be the last weather-dependent task before the building is useable. Everything else is interior work.
On Saturday, I celebrated my birthday. I use the word "celebrated" loosely, because what I actually did on Saturday was work. My client's computer system needed a major software upgrade, a task that can only be done on one weekend each month. If I hadn't done it this weekend, it would have had to be postponed until next month. Luckily, it went smoothly, and I was finished early.
As far as actual celebrating goes, Wendy treated me to a birthday lunch on Friday, when we were in town for our regular bi-weekly shopping trip. She also made me some vegan Nanaimo bars. Yum!
We had an interesting situation this week on a Fire Department callout. It was a First Responder call, meaning that we respond to stabilize a medical patient before the ambulance gets there. Just as our crew was assembling at the firehall, a second call came in for a different medical emergency. With only one ambulance on the island, we decided that the ambulance would respond to the more serious emergency, while the Fire Department responders went to the less serious call. It shows the value of having First Responders available, since, without us, the second patient would have had to wait over an hour for the ambulance to get back from the first call. The patient had to wait anyway, but at least had the benefit of trained emergency help at the scene.
We have several families of deer wandering through our property on a regular basis. Today, for some reason, they were all together at the same time. We had a herd of eight deer - three mothers and five young'uns - munching the vegetation at the same time in a very small area.
When you run out of photo ideas, the old standby is kitty pictures. Here is a photo of Owen enjoying the warmth of the heated floor in the downstairs bathroom.
It is late September and the cedars are starting to show their fall colours. Wait a second, the cedars??
Cedars have been in trouble for years on Denman Island due to climate change. Cedars are a true rainforest tree, and this side of Vancouver Island is not really a rainforest. In winter, it resembles a rainforest, but our dry summers stress the cedars. Denman is marginal habitat for them, and is steadily getting more so. Though the winters have, in general, been getting wetter, the summers have been getting drier. Individual cedars on Denman have been dying for quite a while.
This year, however, is a record-breaker for dryness. The dry season started in January, and hasn't really ended yet, though it is showing signs of easing up. The result is that just about every cedar on the island is showing red needles. Though a healthy tree can stand a few dead needles, when a tree shows this much red, it is a goner. I fully expect that, by this time next year, there will be very few cedars left alive on Denman.
Our local deer herd is continuing to show signs of domestication under the influence of the "apple lady", a.k.a. Wendy. The youngsters don't run away when we are working outside, and even approach us looking for handouts. It is very entertaining for us, and, as you can see, for the cats, too.
I am making progress on the construction project. As advertised last week, I took advantage of a dry day to get the plumbing vent stack completed through the roof, including all the necessary flashing. It was put to a good test the next day with a moderately heavy rain, and, I am happy to report, with no leaks.
I installed the hot water heater and pressure-tested the plumbing this week. In the course of doing so, the well suddenly packed it in. With no warning, the water pressure suddenly went to zero.
One of the disadvantages of rural living is that, when the water quits, you can't just phone the city waterworks department and ask them to get it fixed. Fixing the waterworks here is strictly a do-it-yourself affair.
Thinking I had just run the well dry with my water heater testing, I waited 20 minutes and then tried to "reboot" the well pump. Nothing. Uh-oh. I tested the electric lines leading to the pump and they weren't shorted or open, so the motor probably wasn't burnt out. A call to our local plumber confirmed that I had done all the obvious checks, and that the next step would be to pull the pump out of the well to inspect it. Yikes! The pump is at the bottom of 100 feet of pipe.
It was getting late, so the priority was a quick trip to the General Store before they closed to get bottled water for drinking, cooking and tooth-brushing, followed by filling buckets with rainwater for other purposes.
This morning, I opened the wellhead and was quickly able to determine the cause of the problem. The water pipe coming up from the pump had broken, luckily not too far down. I called on my friend Herb to come over and give me a hand. Together, we built a tripod over the wellhead and used a pair of comealongs (hand-operated winches) to hoist the pump and its pipe up about three feet, just enough to expose the broken end.
Whoever installed the well had used the wrong type of fitting. To attach the plastic pipe to a brass part, they had used an adapter made of black iron. Black iron is a bad material to use on a water system because it rusts, but it was particularly inappropriate when attached to brass. An electrochemical reaction with the brass had corroded the iron to the point where it was literally nothing but a pile of rust held together by wishful thinking.
After a quick trip in to town to Home Depot (these things never happen when the local hardware store is open), I was able to clean out the remaining rust from inside the brass part (which was undamaged by the corrosion) and repair the connection using a plastic adapter. I had the well reassembled and fully functioning by suppertime.
I celebrated by taking a well-deserved (and necessary) shower!
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 20-May-2013