St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
Hot! What else can you say about this week?
I was going to continue digging the trench for the new water line in the garden. I couldn't. It was too hot.
We were going to go to the Fillberg Festival in Comox, an annual festival of music and crafts. Last year, the temperature was just in the twenties, and it was uncomfortably hot. This year, the forecast was for temperatures in the thirties, so we cancelled our plans. Too hot.
How hot was it? It has been in the thirties all week. Our maximum, on Tuesday, was 37.4, a new record for July. Overnight lows have been in the low to mid twenties most of the week. It is a challenge trying to keep the house cool. We have sheets of plywood over some of the east-facing windows to keep the morning sun from getting an early start on heating up the house. We've tried shutting the windows when the outdoor temperature gets warmer than the indoor temperature. It works a little bit: the house trails behind the outdoor temperature by a few degrees through the day. By supper time, it's just as hot inside as out.
So, what have we been up to? As little as possible! We have been reading, and doing indoor chores that do not require a lot of movement. I am sewing custom seat covers for the car. You can't buy off-the shelf seat covers because of the assymetrical split rear seat and the airbags in the front seat. Since we want the car (and its seats) to last 20 years, they need covers, so it's a DIY project.
The air is full of forest fire smoke from fires on the mainland. Today, the Fire Department was called out to investigate several reports of a smell of smoke. We found no fires on Denman Island, just the general haze. We are glad that people are alert enough to report any suspicious smells, though. A fire now would be a disaster.
The garden, of course, needs quite a bit of water in this heat. We are careful to water only in the evening, so as not to waste water with daytime evaporation. We have 1600 gallons left, enough to last until the first week of September. We are hoping we get some rain before then, or else the garden will be toast, literally. It has been nearly a month since our last rain.
Our Spartan apples are starting to show a bit of a blush. The August apples are actually ready to pick - they have started dropping on their own. The grapes are fattening up, although they are far from ready. I hope you like the picture of the grapes, because it cost me a wasp sting.
The extreme heat of last week has abated considerably. Temperatures this week have continued to be seasonably warm, but in the twenties, rather than the thirties. We have still not had a drop of rain. There is rain in the forecast for tomorrow - we'll see if it materializes.
Now that I am keeping track of our water usage, I can tell you that we used 240 gallons of water on the garden this week.
We have started harvesting the Transparent (August) apples. This seems to be a particularly good year for them. The Gravensteins and Spartans are coming along nicely. With the warm weather, they may even be ahead of schedule. The raspberries, if they ripen, will be a bumper crop, but they look like they will be late this year.
With the cooler weather, I am back to digging the trench for the pipe for the new cistern. It is slow digging, and I can only work on it in the mornings, before the sun gets too high. The ground is bone dry, which makes for hard digging. It is mostly clay, which hardens when it dries. I have to chip it away a couple of inches at a time. The trench is now between two of the strawberry beds. I have about 12 feet left to dig before I can connect the pipe.
I also finished sewing the seat covers for the car. They turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. These are the rear seats in the photo, which I made from scratch. For the front seats, I modified standard off-the-shelf seat covers so that they do not cover the airbags. I was so inspired by the results that I washed and vacuumed the car. Wendy is still wondering if I am feeling all right.
A former work colleague of Wendy's has a U-pick organic blueberry farm at Royston, near Courtenay. We spent a couple of hours there this week, picking a great big pile of blueberries. It was a perfect day for it, not too hot. We have had several fresh blueberry desserts since then, but Wendy is going to freeze most of them for winter baking projects.
Denman Island was in the news this week, as the story broke about BC Ferries' plan to replace our conventionally-powered ferry with a cable ferry. We like to make fun of BC Ferries, but it actually seems like a practical idea. The idea is to save money, of course. Apparently, a cable ferry is much more fuel efficient than a propeller-driven one. People are concerned that the service wil be contracted out, and that the new ferry will require substantially less crew. Both of those facts are bad news for those islanders who work on the ferry. There is a community meeting later this month at which BC Ferries will be explaining exactly what the plan is.
With the cool weather this week, I finally finished my cistern project. I was able to dig the last 12 feet of trench and lay the pipe in it. The fittings are all connected and the trench is back-filled. The best thing is that nothing leaks! I transferred 160 gallons to the new tank just to test it out, and then pumped some of that water onto the garden. It all works! So now, if it ever rains, we will be able to store 4500 gallons of it. We have been using an average of 45 gallons a day on the garden, so that works out to being able to survive 100 rain-free days next summer.
My other garden project has been to clean out the old beds that held the lettuce, spinach and chard that has finished for the season, and to prepare them for winter greens. I dug in some compost and planted kale and chard seeds. Probably not a great idea from the point of view of crop rotation (or lack thereof), but that is just the way it worked out. We are gradually getting more organized about gardening, so hopefully next year we will do a better job of bed allocation.
Our raspberries are starting to show some colour, and not a moment too soon. It looks like they are going to be a late crop this year. We probably got over-zealous with pruning them last winter.
My next project will be to stain the decks. Though our new decks are made with pressure-treated wood, they still need to be stained from time to time after the green stuff wears off. (And, as for the old deck, well, the less said about it the better!) There is a wasps' nest under the cottage deck, which I am not looking forward to working around. We may have to take some action to deal with it.
There are three yearling deer that have been hanging around our place all year. We think that they were orphaned as babies last fall, and they just barely made it through the winter with generous handouts. Of course, now they think of our place as home. In the spring, they were clearly infested with parasites - they lost almost all of their fur, and one in particular developed a nasty cough. They are looking much better now - their fur is coming back nicely.
Still, they are small for their age, and we wanted to give them a bit of a hand before the winter. So we went to the vet and got some anti-worm medication. The problem is trying to get them to take it. Wendy hid one pellet of the medication inside a plum. Now, these are deer, known to eat anything and everything that originates in the plant kingdom with the exception of daffodils. Plums are among their favourite foods, and the medicine is allegedly alfalfa-flavoured. So you'd think they'd just chomp it down, wouldn't you? No such luck. This remains a work in progress. Our next attempt will be peanut butter-coated apples.
Still, they are cute. This picture is of the one who was the sickest in the spring. Aside from the goofy look on his face, he is looking pretty good.
Another cute fellow we are seeing frequently is the aligator lizard. We have some good lizard habitat around our property. This one has taken up residence in the woodshed and likes to sun himself on one of the concrete pier blocks.
Those of you who followed the seemingly never-ending saga of our cottage renovation may have wondered why, after all the fuss of the construction, I haven't yet posted photos of the completed, furnished interior. The reason is that we wanted to have an official opening, and in particular that we wanted to have the original builders of the cottage perform the ribbon cutting. We wanted them to see it for the first time with their own eyes, rather than on website photos.
On Friday, weather and schedules combined fortuitously, and we finally held our grand opening ceremony. We invited several of our neighbours, who no doubt had to put up with much sawing and hammering over the last two years, but the guests of honour were Harold and Marit Birkeland.
The cottage was originally built by the Birkelands back in 1981 as a summer getaway here on Denman. Eventually, they built a beautiful home on the same lot and sold the cottage to the former owner of our house, who hauled it up the big hill to use as his wife's reiki studio. When we bought this place, the cottage came with it, of course. We then moved it across the yard to its current and, we trust, final location, a story that is no doubt familiar by now.
Every guest cottage needs a name, and we named it after the Birkelands. If you are wondering about the pigeon on the sign, read Harold's blog for August 16, 2009.
Harold and Marit performed the ceremonial ribbon cutting, and then we took them and our other guests on the guided tour. They seemed to like it, especially the fact that it now has an indoor bathroom! Harold did point out two deficiencies. One is that, having named it "The Birkeland", we now need to plant some birch trees. The other is that we have unwittingly painted the exterior of the cottage in the national colours of Sweden, instead of Norway, where the Birkelands come from. Oops.
We had a good afternoon, chatting over pieces of Wendy's famous lemon tart.
One of the topics we chatted about was a meeting held on Thursday by B.C. Ferries to discuss their new proposal that would replace our standard ferry with a cable ferry. The meeting was more notable for its entertainment value than for its informational value, though not in a way that reflected well on our community. Many residents used the opportunity to vent their pent-up frustration with B.C. Ferries, and others wanted to play amateur engineer, second-guessing the design decisions of the professionals. This was not always done politely. Still, the staff members from the company handled it well, and we did learn some useful information. For example, we were interested to learn that there are other cable ferries in Canada that run on on salt, tidal water, and which seem to have no particular issues with this kind of environment.
They are still early in the feasibility study, so many design details have not yet been worked out. It is clear that a cable ferry would dramatically cut operating costs because hauling on a cable is much more efficient than churning water with a propeller. However, it is not clear if the savings in operating costs will justify the capital investment required to change the system. We won't know for another year whether the change will happen.
In the open-house display that preceded the meeting, I had fun pointing out to one of the Ferries staff members that all existing cable ferries in B.C. are free, with an implied expectation. Not that there is the remotest chance that that will happen here, of course, but we "minor route" islanders like to point out the double standard of fresh-water vs. salt-water ferries whenever we can. The staff member had the decency to smile sheepishly when he acknowledged my point.
Last week's Denman Diary was full enough that I didn't mention the 100th anniversary of the Piercy barn here on Denman Island. The Piercys were among the first settlers on the island, back in the 19th century. The land is still in the Piercy family, and the barn is 100 years old this year. In honour of the occasion, they held an open house, which was well-attended, since the Denman school was also holding a reunion the same day. The barn is full of old farm equipment and machinery, some of which has seen better days, and some of which is clearly still in use.
The photo inside the barn and the photo below of the starfish were two of my three entries in the Photography Club's second annual gallery show, this weekend. (My third entry was another starfish.) Once again this year, the quality of the photos from all members was excellent. We had 111 visitors, which is very good attendance for a two-day show here, and we had a lot of favourable comments. Two of the photos in the show sold (though none of mine).
Owen, our orange boy cat, has been getting bored lately, so Wendy decided to take him outside on a leash. He really enjoys his walks, and sniffs all around the meadow. He is quite intrigued by the deer, who are equally curious about him. (I can just imagine them thinking, "Boy, that is the smallest cougar I have ever seen.") The walks cure his boredom problem - until he comes back indoors. Now, he meows constantly, wanting to go back outdoors.
Idyllic though it is, Denman is still a dangerous place for an outdoor kitty. Even our little street gets quite a bit of traffic, especially in the summer. There are not only full-sized cougars to watch out for, but bald eagles and some quite large owls, not to mention raccoons. We really don't want to let him wander around at will. So, what to do...?
...Another project! I have started building a large cat enclosure. It is an area of about 2000 square feet that is a fairly un-ornamental rock garden, beside our front entrance pathway. It will be fenced, including buried chicken wire to protect against crittiers digging either in or out. Over top of it will be a large net, supported on poles, to protect against avian predators. Eventually, when we rebuild the deck (next year's project), I will make an enclosed ramp to connect the cats' outdoor room on the deck to this new enclosure. These are spoiled-rotten kitties.
So, anyway, today I was pounding in stakes to support the fence around the enclosure.
Though I try to keep these diary entries light-hearted, I have some sad news to report this time. Last week, my mother passed away at the age of 84 from cancer. She lived in New Westminster, and stayed independently in her own apartment until her final week.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 20-May-2013