St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
This week's news is that Wendy is back from visiting her parents on Nova Scotia. I picked her up at the Comox airport last night. She reported that Cinderella and Prince Charming were working at the WestJet desk at the Toronto airport.
The cats were almost as happy to see Wendy as I was.
We have had a mix of weather this week. Friday was the wettest day so far this year, with over 37 milliletres of rain. However, in between rain events, we get beautiful, sunny, autumn days. We were out for a walk today and took these photos of Pickles Marsh and some poplar trees. While most of the trees have lost most of their leaves, there are still quite a few hangers-on.
Water levels everywhere have started to rise. Pickles Marsh, while still below its late winter level, has risen quite a bit from its summer level. Our well is up to its full winter depth of 85 feet, from its summer low of 50 feet.
Last week, our rainwater tanks reached their full capacity of 4500 gallons, destined for watering next year's garden. It may have seemed strange, therefore, that today I dumped 350 gallons out onto the forest floor. However, having learned how much rain it takes to fill them, and having enjoyed the satisfaction of full tanks, I wanted to leave some room in each tank for expansion, in the event that we get another long cold snap that freezes some of the water. Last winter, we had a cold snap that laster over two weeks with temperatures never getting above freezing. I was lucky that none of the rainwater plumbing broke, but I don't want to push my luck again. So, I drained a bit out of each tank to leave some expansion room, and drained all the underground pipes. It will be easy enough to top up the tanks in the spring - it will take just 10 mm of rain to re-fill them.
Work continues on the medical clinic building. They have framed in and enclosed an addition on the left side, and I have heard reports that they have been moving walls inside. The renovated clinic will be much appreciated on the island.
The rainy season is well upon us now. On Thursday, we had 40 mm of rain, making it the wettest day so far this year. Contrary to rumours, it doesn't rain all the time here in the winter. We will have a couple of days of rain and then a couple of days of dry, even sunny, weather.
Amazingly, on Friday, less than 24 hours after our wettest day, the Fire Department was called out to fight a brush fire. Someone's burn pile wasn't fully extinguished a couple of days earlier, and escaped through forest floor vegetation to flare up into a significant fire. The amazing thing is that, in spite of 40 mm of rain, not to mention all the preceding rain we have had in the last month, the soil two inches underground was still as dry as dust. Clearly, it will take a lot more rain to wet the soil again after such a dry summer.
In spite of the fall weather, or perhaps because of it, our rose bush has had a single blossom on it for the last couple of weeks. It put on a major growth spurt a few weeks ago.
I have been cutting a bit of firewood this week. There are a few dead trees out back, and, while we leave some for the woodpeckers, it makes sense to cut some of them for firewood. We have a good stock of firewood in the woodshed, enough for this winter and most of next winter, but we always want to keep the supply a couple of years ahead of the demand. I cut the trees into six-foot lengths in the woods and wheelbarrow the logs to my work area near the house, where I will buck them into stove lengths and eventually split them.
This afternoon, Wendy and I went to an open-house at the Hermitage, our local Buddhist meditation retreat centre. The centre sits on 60 acres of land that is zoned for agricultural use. The organization is in the middle of the lengthy process of getting it rezoned to make their operation legal, so that they can expand and develop the centre. Today's open house was a chance for them to show the community what they have and what they are planning.
We have visited the Hermitage before, but the open house was the first opportunity we have had to see inside their barn. It is a beautiful building, one of the finest barns on the island, and is in excellent condition. Since one of the requirements of their rezoning is that they will have to continue to use the land for agricultural purposes, they are considering installing a cooperative community cider press operation in the barn. This is a natural for Denman Island, since everyone here has a few apple trees. Making cider (non-alcoholic, unclarified apple juice) is one of the best wasy to preserve the crop for winter storage. People could bring in a carload of apples and go home with jugs of cider.
They are also planning to expand their garden and orchard area to make the retreat centre self-sufficient in produce, and it is likely that the fields will eventually be put back into to agricultural use. Already, there is a successful potato-growing co-op using part of the land.
The actual retreat centre only uses a small portion of the land, and will be limited in size by the terms of the rezoning. It has some of the most unusual architecture on the island. The geodesic domes were built in the 1970s, when the land was owned by some of the original founders of Greenpeace.
This week has been wet and stormy. We had storms on Monday and Friday, with showers in between. Today we have a full-blown Pineapple Express giving us by far the wettest day so far this year. On Friday night, I recorded our first frost of the season, -0.8°C. Other areas of the island have had frosts already, but up on the hill where we are, we tend to be a bit warmer. The mountains across the Sound have snow on them now.
On Wednesday, Wendy and I attended the annual Remembrance Day ceremony at the Seniors' Hall. It was well attended, as it has been for the last few years.
The organizers always invite a representative of the RCMP or the armed forces to attend the ceremony, to "show a uniform". This year, the Air Force base at Comox sent a personable young aircraft maintenance engineer, Capt. Aleem Sajan. At the tea-and-cookies session after the ceremony, we talked to him for a while, and learned a bit about his background and experiences, including a U.N. posting to Darfur in Sudan.
After a while, he inquired about where one could get lunch on Denman Island. We told him where the best place was, but then Wendy suggested that he have lunch with us at our house. He accepted the invitation, and we spent an enjoyable couple of hours chatting over baked beans, biscuits, and pumpkin pie with cashew cream. He impressed us with his sensible outlook on life, the military, and his own career.
On Friday, after the overnight storm had ended, the day turned out to be quite pleasant. We joined in a work bee to pull scotch broom from along the sides of the main road. Scotch broom is an invasive alien plant that rapidly takes over any sunny, open areas it finds. This is a good time of year to eradicate it, since the wet soil makes it easier to pull out by the roots.
The local pesticide-free committee (known as "Bugs 'R' Us") has provided two "broom-pullers" that people can rent for their own use for $5 per day. They are ingenious contraptions that tightly grasp the stem of the plant at ground level and then use leverage to haul it out of the ground. We put them to good use yanking out broom plants, some as tall as eight feet.
There were about a dozen people in the work party, and among us, we managed to completely clear the broom from about half a kilometre of roadside and powerline right-of-way. We brought our pick and shovel, but unfortunately didn't bring a camera.
I mentioned last month about our neighbours' cat Java, who comes over frequently to visit. We had hoped that, once they were home from their trip, he would not hang around here quite so much. However, he seems to have adopted us, and is coming around as much as ever. So, as I had suspected, I had to upgrade our cats' outdoor enclosure to prevent break-ins.
I spent all day yesterday, a cold, blustery day, attaching netting to the top of the wire fence. It is a slow, tedious job, because the edges of the net have to be supported by string woven in and out of the openings in the net. However, as daylight was fading, I got the job completed, and the enclosure is now cat-proof (...he said, hopefully). Now, it looks like some kind of exotic aviary.
It may not be pretty, but it means that we can let our cats outside into the enclosure at night. We had been locking the door at night to prevent Java from coming into the house. Now they can run in and out all night, as they please.
I would have taken photos of the enclosure, but today it was actually too rainy to take a camera outdoors. I will take some for next week. Instead, I have a couple more photos of our feline prowler.
The Pineapple Express weather system that blew in last Sunday is still with us. In the last week, we have had more than 200 mm of rain. I saw in the news that poor Vancouver is complaining about their above average rainfall of 170 mm for the month. My heart bleeds for them! Our total for the month stands at 390 mm. After months of drought, we are on track to break the record for the wettest November. And the Cowichan Valley has had even more rain than we did.
On Friday, Wendy and I drove down to Vancouver to attend the burial of my mother's ashes. Both my brothers and their respective spouses were there. The rain, fortunately, stopped shortly before the ceremony. It was a short visit, but we did get to spend some time together aside from the ceremony.
We drove back on Saturday evening, just as the next storm was blowing in. The drive from the ferry that arrives in Nanaimo at 4:35 to Buckley Bay for the 6:00 Denman Island ferry can be done if the road is dry and you don't get picked up by radar. But the big highway is dangerous in the rain, so we stopped in Nanaimo for a quick supper and took the old highway, to catch the 7:00 ferry. Between the white-knuckle driving through downtown Vancouver and the drive up the island in the dark in a downpour, I will be quite happy not to drive anywhere for a while!
I promised last week to post a photo of last week's contruction project: the net over the cats' outdoor play area. Doesn't it look like we are keeping exotic birds? The netting does make the pen escape-proof, and has so far prevented Java, the neighbours' cat, from breaking in.
However, it hasn't stopped him from trying. On Friday morning, just as we were getting ready to head out to catch the 8:00 am ferry, we heard meowing coming from the pen. Wendy went out with a flashlight and found Java tangled in the net. He had attempted to break in, climbed the fence and found himself caught in the net. He was suspended in a cone-shaped depression in the net, with his feet stuck through, standing on the rocks below. We managed to rescue him by throwing him a towel on top of the net, which he climbed onto. We are hoping that he found the experience unpleasant enough to deter him from future attempts.
However, with all the stormy weather this week, we feel sorry for Java. He is often out in the rain and meows pitifully to be let in. Now that he is no longer a threat to our cats, there is no harm in helping him out a bit, which brings us to this week's project: a cat hotel. It has a basement with a 40-watt light bulb for warmth, a raised bedroom, and an insulated attic. It is made of cedar remnants and is finished in board-and-batten style to match the house. The good news is that he seems to like it.
For a while last week, it looked like we might break a record for precipitation this month. We still have one more day left in the month, and they are forecasting rain, but it looks like the record is out of reach. However, we did well, especially for a drought year. We have had 451 mm of rain this month, 44% of our total precipitation for the year, making it the third wettest November ever, after 1908 and 2006.
Of course, the weather is getting colder, and it will not be long before some of that wet season precipitation falls in more solid form. Last winter's heavy snow tore off our gutters as it avalanched off the roof. We had the gutters replaced in the spring, a necessity for our rainwater collection system. This week, in order to prevent the same thing happening again and ruining our nice new gutters, we had snow stops installed on the roof.
Apparently, half of Denman Island is installing snow-stops, and the installers are run off their feet. They told us that they have people flagging them down by the side of the road and asking about installation.
Last week, I confidently reported victory in my battle of wits against our neighbours' cat, Java. It seems that my claim was premature.
Earlier this week, Wendy and I were quietly reading when we heard a commotion of yowling and hissing at the cat door, followed by the panicked entrance of our two cats. Java had somehow managed to cross the net barrier and get into our cats' play area. He then went up the ramp and hid in the enclosure on the deck, where he ambushed them. Our cats were totally freaked out, to the point where they are now reluctant to venture outside, even in nice weather.
This means war. The battle has now gone high-tech, with the installation of an electric fence. I would like to say that that will stop him, but he is one resourceful cat. So, we shall see. It is a bit disconcerting to be losing a battle of wits with a cat.
My project for this coming week, when not drafted for war duty, will be to start work on a new shelving unit for the living room.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 6-May-2013