St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
Our strawberry crop is looking good. Beginning last summer, we started using a straw mulch around them. They seem to like it! Not only does it keep the weeds down and retain moisture, but it also gradually breaks down to compost and feeds the berries. The plants are big, tall and bushy, with lots of little green berries and a few great big green berries. It won't be long before we are picking them!
It is also coming into rose season. The wild roses are blooming all around Denman Island. Albertans may not be aware of it, claiming all wild roses as their own, but there are actually several varieties of wild rose. The most common one here is the Nootka rose, Rosa nutkana. We see them all along the roadsides, where they give off a delicious scent. We have several taking over one corner of the garden. (The Alberta wild rose is a different species, Rosa acicularis.)
We also have one cultivated rose, "Bantry Bay", which we planted last fall. Although it was not happy being buried in snow over the winter, it has revived nicely and is sending up a very healthy new main stem. It also has several fat buds that should be opening in a week or so. The flower will be a warm pink, and have a moderately strong scent.
Yesterday morning, just as we were getting up, we had a power failure. I was just turning on a light switch, and was surprised that the room got darker instead of lighter, so my reaction was, "What the heck?" Wendy's reaction was more prophetic: "Your pager is going to go off." She was right. She isn't psychic, just smart - in summer, the most common cause of power failures is people smashing vehicles into power poles.
Sure enough, the Fire Department was called out a few minutes later to deal with a vehicle accident and downed power lines. The line in question feeds half of Denman and all of Hornby Island. Although, logically, the downed line should only have knocked out half of our island, it is pretty much a random draw as to which circuit breaker trips first. In this case, the main breaker that feeds the whole island tripped first and everyone lost their power.
The vehicle involved in the accident was rather spectacularly suspended from the telephone wires with its front end about six feet off the ground. The driver had exited the car by his own effort by the time we gor there. We had very little to do except secure the scene, since we are not trained or equipped to handle power lines. So, we blocked the road and then hung around for several hours waiting for the RCMP to come over and inspect the scene, then for BC Hydro to come and repair the lines. Shortly after I got home from the call, our power came back on, and around mid-afternoon, we saw the BC Hydro trucks leaving.
I spent the better part of the last two days installing a new storm door on the cottage. The box didn't say "Some assembly required", but it should have! In addition to the door frame having to be modified to specific dimensions, none of the screw holes required for attaching the hinges, latch, handle or closing mechanism came pre-drilled. The instructions included an inventory of screws allegedly supplied that didn't match the screws required by the instructions, and neither set of screws matched the ones actually supplied in the packet! However, after some detective work and several hours of tinkering, it all came together, and we now have a shiny new storm door that doesn't squeak.
The side of the cottage in the picture hasn't been painted yet. Finishing the painting is my work for this week, along with repairing the electric fence that should keep marauding raccoons out of the garden.
Ten years ago yesterday, Wendy and I met for the first time on top of Mt. Yamnuska, west of Calgary. It was particularly fitting, therefore, that we celebrated that anniversary by going hiking again.
We decided to go for a day hike on the western end of the Juan de Fuca trail. You may remember that, back in March, we went for a hike on the east end of the same trail. We have now hiked the seven kilometres at each end of the trail, leaving only 33 km in the middle unexplored.
We began the trip on Friday by driving down the big island to Duncan and the Cowichan Valley. Having plenty of time, we drove around Lake Cowichan to Youbou, a little cottage village on the shore of the lake. It has very little to distinguish it, other than a cool name. Many of the cottages are being replaced by huge modern McMansions.
From Lake Cowichan, we drove over the newly "completed" road to Port Renfrew. It is an upgraded logging road with no guard rails, no centreline, and numerous one-lane bridges. The "newly-completed" section has an oiled gravel surface that is more gravel than oil. In my opinion, it still needs a bit of work. As a logging road, it provides scenic views of huge clearcuts. If you are trying to get from Lake Cowichan to Port Renfrew, it is the way to go, but, other than that, it has little to recommend it other than the possibility of making a circle drive to Port Renfrew.
Port Renfrew is a little village of about 280 permanent residents. Formerly a logging and fishing community, it now serves mainly as a reclusive retirement community and as the south-eastern terminus of the West Coast Trail and the north-western terminus of the Juan de Fuca Trail. The main industry appears to be catering to hikers on their way to or from the two trails. We stopped in at the Visitor Information Centre, where we had the various sights of the village pointed out to us on the map, and viewed a display ofr historical photographs of the area. After a quick tour of the village, we checked into the Soule Creek Lodge, a B&B located high up on a ridge. Though the Lodge offers gourmet dining facilities, they couldn't provide a vegan meal, so we had "hippy burgers" at the Coastal Kitchen in the village.
On Saturday morning, we headed out on the trail for our day of hiking. The trail starts out as a tourist loop to Botannical Beach. The beach is a rocky shelf which retains a lot of tidal pools when the tide is low. We stopped to check it out, and saw your basic tidal pools: seaweed, little crabs, little fish, etc.
From Botannical Beach, the Juan de Fuca trail branches off and more-or-less follows the coastline. It tends to stay in the forest, a few hundred metres from the sea, with frequent branch trails to provide beach access. The trail is rugged, with numerous stairs, bridges, and boardwalks over wet sections. The trees are large, though not old-growth, consisting of sitka spruce, western red cedar, and douglas fir.
The weather was cool and cloudy, with occasional foggy patches - ideal hiking weather. By lunchtime, we were at our intended turn-around point, where we found a nice sheltered viewpoint looking out over an inlet to sit and eat our lunches. We got back to the Lodge in time for a shower before going out for a supper that included some fine apple pie.
This morning, we returned home via Sooke and Langford. There is a point between Port Renfrew and Sooke where the "outer coast" becomes the "inner coast". Abruptly, the weather changes from cool and overcast to sunny and warm.
When we returned home, we found that our rose bush is blooming. It has one blossom fully open, and several buds just starting to show colour.
We also found our first strawberries ready to harvest. (Wendy thought that every Denman Diary needs a cat, hence the kitty in the picture.) Supper this evening consisted of fresh strawberries and bread from the Cowichan Bay bakery. Yum!
Summer officially began at 10:45 pm last night. Unofficially, it began here more than a month ago. We had a little bit of rain last week, a whole 4 mm, hardly enough to keep the dust down. That is the only rain we have had in the last month.
Though keeping the garden watered is a challenge, the strawberries are loving the warm dry weather. Okay, I know - it's not fair showing strawberries two weeks in a row, but I couldn't resist photographing this batch, which was just one day's harvest. As I predicted a few weeks back, we did enjoy a rhubarb-strawberry pie this week, since our rhubarb is still producing well too. We also have some nice lettuce which is ready for the salad bowl.
There is a good crop of little baby apples and plums growing on the fruit trees. We haven't seen any pears this year, though.
My main activities this week have been Fire Department-related. We recently were issued with our station uniforms, and, with a full complement of volunteers at the moment, most of whom show up regularly for our weekly practice meetings, we decided the time was right for a new group photo. Mine is not the "official" photo, but we were invited to set up our own cameras beside the official one. I am fourth from the right.
We won't actually be wearing the uniforms a lot. They are for official functions, and to give us a more professional appearance when we go on training courses hosted by other departments. For our regular practices, jeans and T-shirts are still more appropriate.
This weekend, I was on a course to upgrade my First Responder skills. Several of us were being certified to use an Automatic External Defibrillator (Yes, you really do shout "Clear!" just like on TV.) and to perform spinal stabilization on patients who need it. Since we are seeing a rise in motor vehicle accidents on Denman Island, this is an important skill to have.
On the cottage renovation front, I did some more exterior painting (second coat of trim colour), made an insect screen for one of the windows and installed weather stripping on the front door.
The main event this week (some would say the main event of the year) was today's Fire Department Pancake Breakfast. It is certainly the largest event of the year on Denman Island, attracting nearly half the island's population. There were cars parked along the road for half a mile in each direction, and the lineup for tickets stretched right around the parking lot.
The entire Fire Department and Auxilliary served pancakes, bacon for those so inclined, vegetarian sausages for the rest, strawberries, whipped cream, juice and coffee to over 500 attendees. I was at my regular station cooking up the veggie sausages. There was a big list of raffle prizes. "Sparky" the fire dog mascot entertained the kids, and there was a fire engine pedal car for them to drive, and a "chopper"-style bike that was even more popular with the firemen than with the kids.
The weather was ideal for an outdoor event: sunny but not hot. We had been a little concerned beforehand, since we actually had some significant rain this week, about 16 millimetres. That equated to 650 gallons collected in our cisterns, a welcome addition. By the middle of June, we had already been down to a little more than half our total supply, with at least two hot dry months of summer still to go. With this week's rain, we ought to be able to keep the garden watered all summer.
We are thinking that this shift in the weather pattern the last couple of years is likely to be permanent. With that in mind, we just got delivery this week of a third cistern, with a capacity of 2000 gallons. It is a great big honker of a tank, standing nine feet tall, and it brings our total water storage capacity to 4500 gallons. That should be enough to carry a larger garden through a rainless summer. Filling water tanks is easy, even in the drier climate. A week of moderate rain will do it. The new tank sits down at the back of the garden. It will be filled from the tanks we already have, via the existing irrigation piping. Now, all I have to do is complete the trenching to run the pipe that will connect it to the existing system.
The other big news this week is that the cottage renovation is finished. Yippee!! I completed the exterior painting, and Wendy has been decorating the interior, hanging pictures and placing ornaments. Today, we hung the last pictures. We will be organizing the grand opening celebration shortly, at which time I will post pictures. Believe me, after all the work that has gone into it, a celebration is in order!
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 6-May-2013