St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
Wendy and I do not observe April Fools' Day, but apparently the weatherman does!
Everyone here is thoroughly fed up with the weather this spring. It has just refused to get warm for the longest time. On Wednesday, we looked out the window and saw ... SNOW! Okay, we know that some parts of Canada are afflicted with snow at inconvenient times, and that, in some places it can snow in any month of the year. But, this isn't one of them!! Okay?
Luckily, April Fools' Day is officially over at noon, and the snow had melted by then. If he knows what's good for him, the weatherman won't try that again!
Finally, this weekend, the weather warmed up enough that we could work outdoors in shirt sleeves. Today, it hit 14.7, the warmest it has been so far this year.
In the garden, I have planted some lettuce, spinach and carrots, and have started digging some of the other beds in preparation for more planting. We have shallots and rhubarb coming up, and our earliest daffodils are blooming.
There are hundreds more daffodils all around the yard, just waiting for one or two more warm days to burst open. Daffodils are popular here, as they are the one flower that deer won't eat. Almost everyone has daffodils at the end of their driveway. There are daffodils at random places along the roadways and beside mailboxes, too, the work of an old-time Denman resident who went around the island planting them, years ago.
On Friday, we attended the final concert in this season's series: an a capella quartet called the Euphorics. All four members are experienced singers, having individually sung backup vocals for recordings by many top-name singers. They have been together for 26 years, and it showed in their performance. It was an excellent concert with tight harmonies and perfect rhythms. The community hall was packed.
With the interior of the cottage nearing completion, I am back outside working on the deck. Though the deck surface has been in place for a long time, it still needs railings. One side is going to have a cedar bench instead of a railing. I installed the frame for the bench today. I will finish the boards for the seat and back next week. The bench faces across the meadow to the garden and the forest down the hill.
We are now well into daffodil season. In sunnier areas around the island, there are some impressive displays, including this one at the entrance to kid's camp run by the Elks' Lodge. Most of our daffys are still waiting for a really nice, warm spring day to open.
We have had a few days with temperatures in the upper teens, but we could use a few more. We had a little bit of rain today, but, again, we could use a bit more.
On Tuesday, we went to a presentation of a documentary film about seed saving. It featured Dan Jason of the Seed and Plant Sanctuary on Salt Spring Island. You may have heard of seed banks before: there was one in the news not long ago in Norway, where they are storing frozen seed varieties under the permafrost as insurance against major disasters.
The seed sanctuary on Salt Spring is different in that they "store" their seeds in the form of living plants. They feel it is important to maintain the viability of the seeds and the diversity of the varieties by subjecting them to real-world growing conditions, which will force them to adapt to changing climate conditions. The difference between a heritage seed variety that adapts and one that is frozen is like the difference between an antique piece of furniture that is restored and one that is in "original" condition.
The presentation, at the community school library, was very well attended. There is a lot of interest here in sustainability and food self-sufficiency. At one time, Denman Island was a food exporter, supplying food to cities on Vancouver Island, and even the lower mainland. Though the island's population has grown since then, we should still be able to grow most of our own food.
Our other educational experience this week was a presentation by the Conservancy Association on bats. Denman has up to ten different species of bats (no one is quite sure exactly how many), including significant colonies of a red-listed (endangered) and a blue-listed (threatened) species. In fact, one of the largest colonies of the endangered bat was right over our heads, in the attic of the old school building. When the building was rehabilitated a few years ago as meeting space for several community organizations, a decision was made not to repair the soffits in order to preserve the bat colony's access to the attic. Conservancy members climb up to the attic annually to make the necessary clean-up for sanitary reasons.
We learned that a bat can consume about 600 insects per hour, and that they need warmth and humidity. We were shown several examples of bat houses that local people have built, and were given plans for building our own. Our yard is not plagued by huge numbers of insects, but we are thinking of building a couple of bat houses to attract our own resident bats.
Denman has a reputation of being a police-free area. This is because we have a low crime rate, but it sometimes attracts people for the wrong reasons. On Friday, there was a rave at the community hall featuring a big-name (apparently) hip-hop band. I can assure you that Wendy and I did not attend, but several hundred kids from Courtenay did. Fortunately, the RCMP had advance knowledge of it and made a rare appearance on the island. As a result, things were kept more or less under control, but downtown Denman was littered with thousands of beer cans and pieces of trash. And someone had driven right through a hydro pole, leaving the remains of the pole and the guy wires all over the road.
I think the committee that looks after booking the community hall is going to hear from quite a few concerned citizens. Events like this contribute nothing to our community.
The Fire Department was paged out of bed at 3:30 on Saturday morning to deal with the smashed hydro pole. Later that day, in an unrelated incident, we were paged out again to deal with the first brush fire of the season. Someone's burn pile had got out of control and spread to a nearby pile of wood waste. As first on the scene, I was the Incident Commander (IC), my first time being IC at a fire. Normally, I would have turned over command to a more senior officer once one arrived on the scene, but the Chief thought it would be a good training experience for me to remain in command for the entire incident. And it was. We had a good response, so there were lots of firefighters to handle the hoses and shovels. I was basically in charge of logistics, looking after crew assignments, pumper placement, tanker operations and so on. In less than two hours, we had the fire out.
I completed my renovation project for this week: the bench on the cottage deck. It looks pretty good, even if I do say so myself..
It has been an uneventful week, compared to last week.
I completed the railings on the cottage deck. Meanwhile, Wendy has finished painting the walls and has started on the floor.
With the weather being a bit warmer now, I have been working in the garden more. A friend gave us a big bag of asparagus crowns. I know next to nothing about growing asparagus, except that the effort is apparently worth it, so we went to the Internet and quickly learned all about bed preparation. Asparagus are finicky - they like sandy soil and lots of compost, and they have to be planted deep enough. And you have to do it right right when you prepare the bed, because they are supposed to last for 20 years.
We made a trip down to the beach for sand and seaweed, and I spent the better part of a day rototilling a bed and then digging out a planting trench in it. Then, I added layers of sand, seaweed, and earth, planted the asparagus, and partly filled in the trench. Now I have to watch for signs of growth and gradually backfill the trench a couple of inches at a time as the spears grow. We won't be able to enjoy fresh asparagus for the first two years. I know that fresh asparagus beats store-bought easily, but this had better be worth the effort!
I have prepared several other beds, and have planted more lettuce, spinach, carrots, turnips and parnips. I have ordered a new net to cover the strawberries. The one we had last year was nearly invisible, and was collapsed over the winter by the weight of snow. We need something stronger, more flexible, and more visible. Nowadays, good garden netting is hard to find. The stores only sell cheap plastic crap. Fortunately, you can still get decent nylon netting by mail order.
The rototiller I used for the garden work is a small lightweight model. It weighs only 20 pounds, and I can carry it in one hand. It has enough power to dig 12 inches deep, if you don't rush it, and it is easy to control. It is just the thing for digging in compost and preparing asparagus beds. Since I had it out anyway, Wendy had me dig a new bed beside the woodshed for some sunflowers.
This year, we have noticed a pair of Canada geese living on Pickles Marsh. While it is not surprising to see them there, we have not seen them there in past years. We presume that they are nesting there, and that, before long, we will see a family of little goslings on the marsh.
Denman Diary is late this week, since I just got back from visiting my mother in New Westminster. While I went across in my own last week, Wendy and I went together this week, in honour of her (my mother's) birthday. She is in good spirits, and we had a good visit. The weather was beautiful, the trees were mostly leafed out, and the cherries and magnolias were flowering, all perfect for a short walk in the park across the street from her apartment.
The routine coming back from Vancouver is to catch the 3:00 ferry from Horseshoe Bay and then the 6:00 ferry to Denman Island. It can be done if you don't drive below the speed limit from Nanaimo to Buckley Bay! We made it with a couple of minutes to spare.
This was the weekend of the Fire Department auction in support of the new medical clinic. Between the trip to the lower mainland, and some monthly maintenance work at my job, work that can only be done on weekends, I was not able to participate in it. No doubt it was efficient and profitable, as always.
I did participate in a brush fire callout on Saturday. A fire near the beach on the west side of the island was burning into a thick patch of brambles. We were able to access it from the beach, though it was a rough ride in the trucks along several hundred metres of rocky shoreline. We had a good response, and were able to put a couple of thousand gallons of water on it in short order, which did the job quickly. A good thing, too, as the tide was coming in.
Sorry, I have no pictures this week. You'll just have to take my word for it that the rhubarb is doing well, and we have lettuce, spinach and carrot plants starting to show themselves and grow. The strawberries are doing well, and the raspberries are growing nicely. We are busily eating the last of last year's frozen berry crop to make room in the freezer for a new crop.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 6-May-2013