St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
The rain has stopped and the temperatures have turned frosty. Our lowest overnight low temperature so far was -0.8°C. Tonight, we are heading into an arctic outflow: already (at 7:00 pm), the temperature is down to -1.7°C and headed lower. According to the forecast, we are not going to see above-zero temperatures now until Friday. On the other hand, we have had no snow, and none is in the forecast.
When there is frost in the forecast, I drape an old towel over the car windshield to keep the frost from building up on it. That way, if there is a Fire Department callout, I can just pull the towel off and go without having to scrape. The towel is held in place by closing the front doors on the top corners and tucking the bottom edge under the windshield wipers.
In spite of the cool weather, we still have one rose blossom hanging on. Not bad for the first week of December!
The major event on Denman Island this week was the Christmas Craft Fair. In contrast to previous years, when we have had torrential rain or deep snow, the weather was perfect for it this year: clear and cool. The two halls "downtown" were packed with both locals and off-islanders. As usual, there was a large selection of top-quality crafts, and a great deal of socializing, since absolutely everyone goes to it.
We toured the exhibits and admired them but restrained ourselves from buying more than a handful of items. It would be very easy to blow a small (or large) fortune at the fair.
Because of the large number of visitors, lunch is catered in both halls for the fair. We had a fine vegan chili cooked up by the staff from the Kaffee Klatsch Bistro, the most popular eatery on the island.
Proceeds form the food sales are being used to support the Denman Community Land Trust, an organization dedicated to providing affordable housing on Denman. Affordable housing is a major issue on all the gulf islands, as rising rents force people to move away, reducing the diversity of the community. By acquiring land on which they will provide affordable housing, they hope to attract and retain younger people who will keep the community viable.
This week's report on the cat war is favourable. Java, the neighbours' cat, has not been in our cats' play area at all this week. We have only seen him around the house a couple of times. Each time, we growl and roar and wave our arms at him and chase him away. That and the electric fence seem to be getting through to him that he is not welcome. Our cats are gradually getting over their fear of the outdoors and are once again venturing outside to play, in spite of the cooler temperatures.
With a couple of dry days this week before the temperatures headed into the frigid zone, I nailed traction strips onto the ramp at the front entrance. I had had to remove the old ones when I stained the wood. Though we could have used them when we were having all the rain last month, I was reluctant to install them when the deck was wet. However, they are now ready for frost and any other white stuff we might get.
"It's a dry cold." That's what we always hear from prairie people when they boast about their winter weather. I understand that the prairies have an excess of that dry cold right now, but it is unusual to hear Denman Islanders talk about our winter weather in those terms. Yet that is what we were saying this week.
Well, okay, I admit that the term "cold" is relative, but, hey, it was below freezing! However, the humidity was low enough that we didn't have to scrape frost off the car's windshield. Pickles Road is dry and dusty, enough that the surrounding vegetation is once again sporting a coating of dust, just like in summer.
Some Denman residents are showing Christmas spirit. We saw this tree decorated with Christmas tree baubles when we were out for our walk one day this week.
Our usual walk is "around the block", the block being 8.5 kilometres around. However, today, for a change, we hiked the trail from Pickles Road through "Central Park", a quarter-section of recovering clearcut forest preserved by the Denman Conservancy Association. The Conservancy acquired the parcel of land a few years ago, and paid off the mortgage on it this year, thanks entirely to donations. They have done a wonderful job of developing the old logging roads into hiking trails and maintaining them. Parts of the land where alders are rapidly growing in are already starting to look like forest again, as you can see in the photo.
Our objective today was to look at the new boardwalk and bridge that they have recently built over a marsh in order to connect two of the hiking trails. Apparently, some of the trails have yet to be developed... We knew where to look for the bridge, but couldn't see it or any trails leading to it. We will look for it again the next time we are there, perhaps approaching from the other trail. They say it is a very nice bridge.
The main social event of the week was the annual Fire Department Christmas Dinner, held in the back hall of the Community Centre. The Department has 26 members, plus seven auxilliary members and three junior members, so, with some invited guests and spouses, the hall was quite full. The meal featured turkey and ham supplied by the Department, and enough veggies supplied by pot-luck contributions from the members to keep us vegans happy.
In addition to being the Department's main social event of the year, it is also our awards presentation night. This year, we were all celebrating the significant achievement of having completed the Basic Firefighter course. It is a keen group of volunteers this year, and there were quite a few serious awards handed out.
There was also the humourous (and usually embarassing) award for "Safe Driving". This year, there was a tie among three nominees, which had to be decided by applause from the audience after the citations had been read. The nominees were: crunching someone's car in the parking lot while responding to a call; crunching a flashing light on our brand new tanker truck while responding to a call; and crunching a cabinet and some light fixtures while backing the almost brand-new tanker truck into its bay at the hall. The award was won by ... our Driving Instructor, for the latter incident!
I was awarded the "First Responder of the Year" award, on the strength of my regular response to medical callouts. Most of our callouts are First Responder (i.e. medical) calls, and due to our location less than a kilometre from the Fire Hall, I am usually one of the first members to arrive at the hall, so I get to go on most calls.
It is the week before Christmas and there are all kinds of Christmas activities happening.
On Wednesday, Wendy participated in the first of two Christmas bird counts. I had to work that day, so I wasn't able to participate. I wasn't broken-hearted about it, because it rained 37 mm. Wendy arrived home dripping wet, but had a good time anyway. She claims to have seen a pink flamingo, which makes me wonder exactly what those birders drink for refreshments.
On Friday, it was Moonlight Madness, the one night of the year when the shops in "downtown" Denman are open late for Christmas shopping. I suspect that not a lot of actual shopping gets done, but it is a good chance for people to come out of hibernation, meet the merchants, and mingle. The weather was good - no rain or wind - so there were quite a few people out.
This year, Wendy and I volunteered to help set up the "luminaries" - tea-light candles inside paper bags that line the sidewalks. There were over 500 of them, all through the downtown area. It makes quite a nice effect, as you can see.
For a treat, we stopped in for dessert and decaf coffee at the Kaffee Klatsch Bistro, the main downtown eatery, before wandering around the shops. They have some excellent coffee, and at least half their desserts are vegan. It is so nice to live in a place where that is considered mainstream!
It was an unusual treat for the Bistro to be open at supper time. This time of year, they are normally open for breakfast and lunch only. Earlier in the week, we had gone there for lunch. While we were sitting enjoying our curried tomato soup, two riders rode up on horses right outside the windows, the horses dressed in ribbons and Santa Claus hats. It was quite a sight! I've got to start carrying the camera everywhere I go.
Today, Wendy and I participated in another Christmas bird count. Of course, the weather was back to rain again. It was weather that only ducks would appreciate, so it was a good thing that the majority of the birds we saw were ducks. We saw a couple of dozen different species (not all ducks) including gulls, various shorebirds, and quite a few land-based birds.
Part of our assigned territory included a narrow spit of land at the very north tip of Denman Island. The shallow water between there and Tree Island, just offshore, attracts large numbers of water birds. The real birders in the group estimated the ducks alone to number 1800. If you are wondering why the birds haven't all flown south for the winter, the reason is that they have. This is "south" for many of the birds that live in Alaska in the summertime. We didn't see any pink flamingoes this time.
This evening, we attended the annual community Christmas Dinner. Like most things here, it runs on volunteers. The idea is to ensure that the less fortunate members of the community can enjoy a Christmas dinner. However, rather than single them out for attention that is perhaps not wanted, the dinner is open to everyone. And that is just who shows up: everyone. They have tables set up in both halls of the Community Centre, and they are all filled twice in the course of the evening. The organizers provide turkey, potatoes and vegetables, and everyone else brings salads, side dishes and desserts.
Seeing as this is the last Denman Diary before Christmas, a merry Christmas to all!
The main event this week was obviously Christmas. Not that Wendy and I make a big deal about it, but there wasn't much else going on this week.
For those of you who were wishing for or experiencing a white Christmas, I thought I would include a photo of the greenest, mossiest part of our green Christmas. There is a stretch of forest not far from our house where everything is totally covered in the most lurid green moss. Oh, that reminds me, our last rose blossom of the year still has a couple of pink petals on it.
On Christmas day, we had two couples who also don't observe Christmas over for a non-Christmas dinner. It was a fun evening. We consumed large quantities of excellent food and sat up late chatting until everyone had to go home.
We are not the only ones eating well. With the cold weather (don't laugh - it has been below freezing on occasion), Wendy has been feeding the deer. We have our "regulars" - young deer that we fed last winter - and some of this year's fawns. However, we now have a couple of bucks who hang around for the handouts. With hunting season over, I can show you this picture of the largest buck, a healthy-looking fellow with a magnificent set of antlers.
I have been working on the bookcase I am building for the living room. I have the construction part done. Now I am staining the cases and all the shelves. It is going to take a while. The stain takes longer to dry in the cool weather, and I still have to put several coats of polyurethane over it. Since it is a tall bookcase, I have to do the bottoms of the shelves as well as the tops, so each coat takes twice as long to apply.
Our main recreational activity has been to go for walks, either "around the block", our usual 8-km walk, or over to Central Park, the conservation area a couple of kilometres from here. Here are a couple of scenes from our walks this week: Chickadee Lake and a view across Baynes Sound to the cloud-shrouded Beaufort Mountains.
Happy New Year, everyone!
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 6-May-2013