St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
This has been the week for gerdening. Aside from the usual chores of weeding, watering, and tending the new asparagus bed, I spend quite a bit of time repairing the strawberry room.
The winter snow accumulated on the plastic mesh of the berry room's roof and tore it down. I was never happy with the plastic mesh. It is practically invisible, to the point that I actually had to install "caution" tape around the berry house to keep from walking into the net, and it is stiff and snags on everything.
Since it needed replacing, I ordered a flexible nylon garden net. Such things used to be sold in all garden supply stores, but now they are considered a high-end specialty item, available by mail order only. Anyway, the net arrived this week, and I spent a couple of afternoons installing it. It is not a lot easier to work with than the plastic mesh, but I think it will be more satisfactory in the end. It is more flexible and has wider openings, so it is less likely to be brought down by heavy snow. And, it is much more visible, so there is less danger of getting tangled up in it.
Lots of vegetables are coming up now. Everything I started from seed has sprouted, with the exception of one row of lettuce. The asparagus is sending up new spears. Unfortunately, it will be a couple of years before we will be able to eat it. The king of the garden right now, though, is the rhubarb. I top-dressed it with a bit of seaweed, and it just took off. It definitely likes to be fed! I can see a rhubarb pie in our near future!
The strawberries are doing well in their repaired bird-proof room and should start flowering soon. Maybe a strawberry-rhubarb pie later...?
All of a sudden, this week, the dogwoods are flowering. At the bottom of the "big hill", there are several huge old dogwood trees just covered with blossoms.
On Friday evening, Wendy and I were walking downtown to meet the Green Party candidate. Halfway there, my Fire Department pager went off - a propane leak behind the general store. Since I was on foot, I flagged down another firefighter on his way to the firehall and hitched a ride with him. We blocked off the entire downtown area (cancelling the meeting that we had been headed to) and then connected the Fire Department's big "tiger" torch to the leaky tank to burn off the remaining gas. For the next four hours, we sat there watching a propane torch. Trust me, it is about as exciting as watching paint dry. However, it was one of the more interesting callouts we have had.
This week's big event was the Home and Garden Tour. It is held every two years as a fundraiser for the Denman Conservancy Association, one of the largest and most widely-supported organizations on the island. The Conservancy does a lot of work to protect natural areas on Denman. They own or manage a substantial amount of land on the island, including some parcels that are the only known Canadian habitat of the critically endangeered Taylor's Checkerspot butterfly. They also hold conservation covenants on private land that the landowners wish to see preserved in perpetuity. Definitely a worthwhile cause.
The Home and Garden Tour is their largest fundraiser. Formerly held every year, it was putting too much of a strain on the organizers, homeowners and gardeners, so now it is held every other year. Ten island residents offer to make their homes and/or gardens open to the public for a day. Some are repeats from previous years, and others are new places on tour for the first time. For $15, you can snoop on your neighbours, gather good renovation and decorating ideas, or marvel at what a weed-free garden looks like. It is a popular event for tourists as well as residents.
In past years, it was held in June, but this year, they decided to feature spring gardens by holding it in May. I suspect they were also hoping to get a bit of the "take mother out for a drive" Mother's Day traffic.
Some of the gardens were amazing. Tulips, of course, were prominent in many of them, but we were surprised at the variety of flowers. A great deal of effort had clearly gone into weeding. Dozens of volunteers help the gardeners prepare for the tour with weeding and clean-up chores.
The houses, too, were fabulous to see - beautifully designed, decoraded and furnished. After having seen many of the Tour houses this year and in previous years, we are starting to recognize the work of individual Denman house designers. Many of the most gorgeous houses are the work of one man.
One house on the tour, a century-old farm house has recently been renovated. While keeping many of the historical elements of the building, such as the tongue-and-groove ceilings and the panelled doors, they have brightened the space with big windows and verandahs.
One of the places on the Tour this year was the Denman Island Chocolate Factory (photo at right). Though it is neither a home nor a garden, everyone wanted to see inside it. (They had free samples, but only for mothers.) One of the requirements of their rezoning approval was that the building had to resemble a residential structure from the outside. The owner has actually made it resemble a residence on the inside too, using the finest materials, including a beautiful wooden staircase. Part of the Chocolate Factory's land is under a conservation covenant to preserve the natural arbutus ecosystem of the ridge on which it sits. The Conservancy had someone in attendance to explain for the benefit of other landowners how the covenant process worked and what its goals were.
Today, we went dragon shopping. One of Denman's best-known potters is famous for his sculpted dragons. He is retiring this year, so his work will soon be in limited supply. We have wanted one of his dragons for years, so, as we went around on the tour, we dropped in at his studio and purchased this beauty. He now sits on the top of our entrance pergola beside a raven by the same artist.
Though we didn't get much in the way of April showers last month, we are getting the May flowers anyway. Our clematis vine at the front entrance is putting on a good show.
In the garden, the strawberries are starting to flower. We have spent a couple of mornings weeding them, and have one more appointment to finish the job. The rhubarb is getting set to take over the world (Apparently it loves seaweed!), and Wendy has already made a rhubarb pie from some of the harvest.
We have lettuce, spinach, carrots and turnips growing, and have seeded more of the same, as well as some chard, and beets. Our brand new asparagus bed has quite a few shoots growing.
On Friday, we gave some friends a guided tour of our rainwater irrigation system. With our climate having shifted to a drier mode, people are starting to get interested in irrigation systems. Our friends were particularly interested in seeing the solar-powered pump and in learning the statistics - how much capacity we need and how much rain it takes to fill the tanks.
On Friday evening, we were invited to a birthday party that we heard described as "the party of the year." The description did not seem to be an exaggeration, as just about everyone who participates in the public life of Denman was there. The entertainment consisted of a live three-piece jazz band, which was really good. With nice weather apparently here to stay, the party spilled out into the garden.
We have been to a couple of events like this recently - the other one was the wrap-up party after the Home and Garden Tour last week - and they really emphasized for us what an interesting and dynamic community we live in.
Speaking of tours, this weekend was the annual Pottery Tour. Denman Island has a large number of potters, and although most of their studios are open every day, once a year they put on the tour as an "event", complete with a route map showing tourists how to get from one studio to the next.
We didn't go to all the studios this year. Rather, we picked a selection of potters whose work we hadn't seen before, or whose work we especially like to see again and again. We were very good, and limited our purchases to a few modestly-priced items. The talent and variety displayed by the local potters is such that we could easily break the bank and buy enough pottery to fill a couple of houses. The hardest part of the tour is resisting temptation!
In between gardening, touring, and attending social events, I have been continuing to work on the cottage. The posts that have been extravagantly supporting the side deck for over a year finally reveal their true purpose. I am installing the rafters that make it into a covered walkway. We are considering whether to make it into an open arbour or to glaze it to make a rain shelter of it. That decision will wait until next year. The exterior work is now essentially finished except for the painting. It will be blue with yellow trim. Interior photos will be available once the decorating is completed.
[Good luck, Glen!]
The weather is starting to feel summery. The tree frogs are singing, and the air smells of blossoms. Everything is a lush green. We had a bit of rain earlier this month, and, combined with the warmer temperatures, everything is growing like crazy.
The major flower type in the garden right now is columbines. We have several varieties blooming, including red, pink and purple in this picture.
Of course, it is not only flowers that are growing well. Weeds, too, are growing fast. Compared to Alberta, where the gardening challenge was to try to get plants to survive, here the challenge is to beat back the jungle. Wendy and I spent several hours this week weeding the strawberries. They were suffering from an invasion of buttercups. Buttercups have very similar growing habits to strawberries, so anything you do for the berries helps them grow too. The only way to get rid of them is by hand weeding.
The strawberry beds look much better for it. They are flowering en masse now, so we are hoping for a bumper crop in a few weeks. Next task: the raspberries.
The lettuce and spinach are coming along nicely. We will soon be able to pick some spinach leaves for salads.
All the trees have their new growth, easily recognizable by its pale green colour, which contrasts with the darker green of the old foliage. I found one little fir tree that was only three inches tall, two inches of which was new growth.
The grass in the meadow is starting to get long, and the grapevines, always among the last to show signs of life in the spring, are starting to leaf out.
In the cottage, I have installed the towel rail and mirror in the bathroom. The baseboards are completed, and I have most of the window screens installed, as well as a blind on the bathroom window that faces the driveway. Windows in Denman houses are traditionally unencumbered by coverings of any kind, but that particular window was just a bit too unprivate! We are starting to move in lamps and furnishings, and have a trip planned down to Duncan to pick up an easy chair.
We are planning a grand opening ceremony, once everything is ready. There will, of course, be pictures at that time, which will be some time in June.
Liesl celebrates her fourth birthday tomorrow. Happy birthday, Liesl. She looks thrilled, doesn't she?
"Make hay while the sun shines" is the old saying. Well, the sun was shining this week, and at least a couple of farmers were cutting their first hay crop. The temperature soared to 29.7 on Friday, setting a new record for May.
With the long run of warm sunny weather in the forecast, I have been working hard on the exterior of the cottage. One morning this week, before it got too hot, I went up on the roof and removed the old chimney, which served no purpose. I used a salvaged sheet of roofing metal to patch the hole. We have no plans to install a wood stove. Even if we did, the chimney was not in a good location, so it was of no use.
Mostly, I have been painting. I have the first coat of trim on three sides, and the first coat of main colour on two sides. It is going to look good! Here is a sneak peek through the trees. For a clearer view, you will have to wait for the grand opening.
To furnish the interior of the cottage, we needed an easy chair that would be comfortable but that wouldn't take up a lot of space. On Thursday, we made a trip down to Duncan to a wicker store, where, back in March, we had seen a chair with potential. On the way to Duncan, we stopped at a large antique store in Ladysmith. You never know, you might find the perfect piece at a good price. Or not.
After a detour to the bakery in Cowichan Bay, where we loaded up with fresh bread and chocolate chip buns, we went to the wicker store. We were in luck, because they still had the chair we wanted! Before we actually bought it, though, we looked around the rest of the store. You never know, you might find the perfect piece at a good price. (Is there an echo in here?) In this case, we did find it: a small drop-leaf table with two folding chairs, something we had also been on the lookout for. And then, for good measure, we found a small quilt to use as a wall hanging. A very successful shopping trip. Believe it or not, with the back seat of the car folded down, the easy chair, table and two chairs all fit in the back with room to spare. It helped that the drop-leaf table and chair set is very compact when folded up, but cargo space is one reason we liked the Honda Fit.
We still find "little treasures" from the previous owner on the property from time to time. One item we found was a bottle of mercury. I can't imagine what he wanted it for, but disposing of it is an issue, since it is very toxic waste. There is no toxic waste disposal in the Comox Valley, so, on the way to Duncan, we dropped it off at the recycling centre in Nanaimo.
Wendy, too, has been painting. She refinished the small picnic table that we have on the deck, as well as an Adirondack chair. In a totally separate venture, she also made some delicious rhubarb oatmeal squares.
The garden is coming along nicely. The climbing rose that we planted last fall has grown a new main stem, and has several flower buds on it. All our veggies are up now, and keeping them weeded and watered will require frequent attention.
I have mentioned before that we are planning to install another cistern for garden irrigation. Yesterday, we had 3000 lbs of sand delivered. We will have to wheelbarrow it all down the hill to the site at the back of the garden, where it will fill the square wood frame that will form the base for the cistern. Once that is done, we can order the tank itself.
Yesterday, I was wondering when the Swainson's thrushes wer going to show up. Its song is one of the highlights of early summer, and glancing back through diary entrries from previous years, it usually shows up in late May. Well, no sooner had I wondered than Wendy and I both heard its distinctive song.
The final picture this week is of our Japanese maple tree.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 20-May-2013