St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
Welcome to 2010. It doesn't look a whole lot different from 2009 so far, so I am glad we didn't stay up until midnight on Thursday just to welcome it in. With the full moon being on New Year's Eve, we though that the dance at the Community Hall might be "livelier" than normal. As it turned out, the band turned into pumpkins at 1:00 am, and it was a quiet night by all accounts.
It has been a quiet week for us, too. I have been doing a bit of wood harvesting. There were a couple of fallen trees in the woods that I cut up and hauled to our wood chopping area. The larger trunks, I buck into rounds right in the woods, since it is the only way I can move them. Even then, some of them weighed a good 40 or 50 pounds. With smaller trunks, I cut them into manageable logs, to be bucked later.
All the wood has to be hauled by hand from wherever it lies to the nearest wheelbarrow-accessible spot. Then, it is trundled by wheelbarrow, two, three or four rounds at a time, to the work area. For the logs, I use a flatbead wheelbarrow. It works well on open ground, but is a bit dodgey trying to manoeuver six-foot logs laid crosswise on the barrow between trees.
There are a few more downed trees that I want to salvage. Once they are in, then we can buck the remaining logs and split them into stove-sized logs for stacking in the woodshed.
If we run out of wind-fallen trees, there is enough timber on the back of the lot that we should be able to be self-sufficient in firewood indefinitely. We recently received instructions in sustainable forestry, so that we have a better idea of which trees to cut to best ensure the long-term health of the forest.
Our teacher was trained by Merve Wilkinson, the famous sustainable logger on Vancouver Island. Mr. Wilkinson bought his property in 1938. Over sixty years, he has cut considerably more wood from the property than it originally held, yet he still has more standing wood than he started with.
Before I start cutting full-sized standing trees, I might have to get some lessons in that particular art.
Here is a photo of Liesl looking cute.
It has been another uneventful week. We had intended to drive down to Victoria this weekend, but thought better of it when the weather forecast called for rain. Neither the drive down to Victoria nor walking around downtown would have been any fun. The forecast turned out to be accurate enough that we were glad we didn't go.
We are into another Pineapple Express weather pattern. Every few days, we get another surge of warm moist air from Hawaii, giving us warm temperatures and abundant rain. We need the rain, so this is good. Right now, the wind is howling and it is raining heavily.
While working outdoors has not been high on our list of priorities this week, it has been warm enough to work in the garage. I have finished putting four coats of polyurethane onto the bookcase frames. Now I have to do all the shelves.
While the polyurethane dries, I have been working on my weather instrument network. I have some new instruments on order (Coming soon: the UV Index for Denman Island!), and I am finally going to get my automatic well depth measurement running.
While working on that, I had an inspiration. The electronic component that will allow the computer to control the air pump for the depth measurement contains four relays, only one of which is required to control the pump. The other three are just sitting there, unused. With the addition of a heavy-duty solid-state relay from my junk box, I used one of them to make a remote control for the yard floodlight on the pump house.
This area of the yard is lit by lights located on our outbuildings. We routinely need outdoor lighting there, but to get to the switches you have to walk through the unlit area. We used to have to take a flashlight to find the switches. Now, I will be able to click a button on my computer screen before leaving the house and the yard light will come on.
With the relatively warm temperatures from the tropical air (our overnight low was +7°C last night), it is pleasant to go walking around the block. The water in Pickles March is quite high. As you can see, the marsh is colourful, in a wintry kind of way.
Speaking of colourful, Wendy's pansies continue to flower. We really haven't had much in the way of cold weather this winter (touch wood) so they just keep on growing and flowering.
It has been a rather wet week. On Monday, we had nearly 70 mm of rain, and the week's total stands at 163 mm. Monday's storm was a continuation of the one I mentioned last Sunday. We were not at all surprised when the power went out late Sunday night. It came back on late Monday morning, only to go out again on Monday evening when another storm hit.
On Monday evening, at the height of the second storm, when the rain was extremely heavy, the Fire Department was called out for a missing person search. We were not looking forward to having to search the woods in that kind of weather. Anyone caught out in it would we suffering from hypothermia from the rain, and would be subject to injury from flying branches. Luckily, the missing person turned up safely at someone's house before the search really got under way.
Normally, on the second Monday of each month, we attend the regular meeting of the Resident's Association. However, in view of the stormy weather (and vindicated by the subsequent power outage), we skipped out of it. I suspect that many of the other regulars made the same choice. At this rate, they may not get much business done - the December meeting was scrubbed for lack of a quorum due to a snowstorm.
The Pineapple Express weather has been mild, though. We have loads of daffodil, crocus and snowdrop shoots poking up in the garden, and even a couple of snowdrops that have flower buds on them (photo at left).
My excitement for the week was going into town to have a colonoscopy done. Okay, TMI (too much information), I know. I'll spare you the details.
Interestingly, instead of using an anesthetic, they use an amnesiac drug. The subjective effect is much the same. However, from observing the other patients in the preparation / recovery ward, I knew that they were able to have conversations with the nurses during the half-hour or so of recovery. I presume that I was no different. Yet my experience was that I must have been "asleep" for that time. I "woke up" only when they told me it was time to get dressed and leave. Weird. It makes me wonder what I might have said during the recovery.
Wendy has been going up to the north end of Denman Island every Tuesday to count trumpeter swans for the local birders. She has been doing it since early December, and has yet to see a single swan. So, I decided to help her out a bit, with the aid of Photoshop.
Yesterday afternoon, the weather was quite pleasant, so I took advantage of it to cut down an old eucalyptus tree in the garden. It is a sub-tropical tree, and, although our winters tend to be mild, they were hard on it. When it snows, our snow is wet and heavy. Each winter, the snow would break and bend the upper branches, so that the top was all twisted and gnarled. It was not a pretty tree, and it shaded the garden. Last winter's long cold snap proved too much for it, and it died, unlamented, over the summer. Cutting it down was a challenge, since it had grown through the deer fence. However, it is now being added to the stack of firewood for the winter after next.
This has been a more eventful week than the past few.
I have finally completed and installed the big bookcase that I have been building. It is seven feet tall and almost ten feet wide. As you can see, it was too big to move in one piece, so it had to be moved in sections and assembled on the spot. I anchored it to the wall so that it can't topple in an earthquake. We started moving all our books into it this afternoon.
The weather has been uneventful this week. We have had fog and the odd shower, but no major storms. That could change in the next week.
With the consistently warm weather, more bulbs are up each day. Wendy took this photo of a planter full of daffodils which are well advanced in their growth. We are keeping a close eye on our snowdrops so as not to miss them when they flower. It would be fun if they would flower before the end of January, just for the bragging rights.
Last night, we attended a concert at the Community Hall featuring "Infinitus", a string trio (violin, viola and cello). They play what they referred to as "classically inspired" music - arrangements and improvisations based on classical and modern-classical music. They are an extremely "tight" group, playing very well together. They played a lot of pieces with hip-hop-style vocal rhythms over top of the instrumental music, which isn't exactly my cup of tea, but I certainly appreciated how well they did it. Their encore piece, "Ausencias" by Astor Piazzola, was the best. It was requested from the audience, sending the musicians scurrying backstage to fetch the music for it, but they played it "straight", and it was gorgeous.
Yesterday and today was the first Denman Island Table Tennis Tournament. It brought out a lot of ping-pong players from all over the island, and even a couple from Courtenay and Victoria. We watched a portion of the playoffs today. Both the Imtermediate and Master lavels were won by off-islanders. The event concluded with an Olympic-style medal ceremony, a podium for the winners made of plastic milk cartons, and even an Olympic-style flame behind them. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the Olympic copyright police don't find out about it.
The event was a fundraiser for the Denman Island Memorial Society. This is a group dedicated to creating a new "natural" cemetery on the island. The existing cemetery is full, so a new one is needed. They have a plot of land already donated and are just awaiting rezoning. What makes the project unique is that, in keeping with the prevailing environmental ethic here, all burials there will be "natural" - no embalming or wooden coffins allowed. In place of stone markers, families will be encouraged to plant trees. It will be only the second or third such cemetery in Canada, but the idea has caught on, and there is considerable support for it.
The temperature has not gone below 5°C or above 9°C all week. Aside from some rain on Monday, it has been foggy and drizzly, with the odd bit of almost-sunshine all week. If it continues like this, I might give my weather station the week off. It is not like it actually has anything to report.
The garden loves this weather, though. The snowdrops that were just buds a couple of weeks ago look like they are ready to open in the next day or two. And we now have crocuses that, although not yet open, are showing their colours. That's pretty good for the end of January!
I took advantage of the mild weather to prune the apple and pear trees. We have four apple trees and two pears. Apparently, the plum trees should be pruned in June, something I only learned last year, so I left them for the time being. Our apple trees seem to produce quite consistently, but the plums had an off year last year, and the pears are very inconsistent. It felt good to get out working in the garden.
Also in gardening news, yesterday, we attended Denman's first annual Seedy Saturday. Seedy Saturday is an event held in many communities in late winter. It is a seed exchange, where anyone who has saved seeds can bring them in and exchange them for other people's seeds. There is considerable interest here in agricultural and horticultural self-sufficiency, and seed-saving is a big part of it. The idea is that seeds that you have saved yourself are more likely to be adapted to local conditions than hybrid commercial seeds that are bred for uniformity. The seed exchange encourages the preservation of rare heritage varieties that are in danger of becoming extinct.
Seedy Saturday was held in one of the classrooms of the old school building. Because this was a first-time event, they anticipated that a lot of interested people would not yet have any seeds to exchange, so several vendors of heritage seeds were invited to sell their wares. We bought quite a few seed packets (carrots, parsnips, beans, greens, and several types of herbs), and are planning to save some of the seeds from this year's harvest.
We learned at last autumn's seed-saving workshop that most vegetables are biennials, so to save seeds, you have to over-winter some of them. The west coast is one of the few areas in the country where that is possible without a greenhouse. We still have some carrots in the ground from last year, and will try to grow them to seed this year. They were bought as commercially-grown seeds, so we don't actually know if they are capable of producing seeds. It will be a bit of an adventure to find out.
Early this week, we got a call from one of our neighbours to tell us that B.C. Hydro had a work crew in our road cutting trees that were too close to the power line. She had three trees that were affected, and, since she already had a full woodshed, she offered us the wood.
Collecting "free" wood, especially when it is right by the side of the road, is a competitive sport here. Whether it is a Hydro crew or a storm that takes a tree down, anyone passing by who notices a fallen tree will go straight home to grab a chainsaw and collect the wood. The person whose property is closest to the trees (which are usually located on the public right of way) has "dibs" only by virtue of the time it takes to reach the site.
So, when she called to offer us the wood, I knew that I might only have a 15-minute head start on anyone else. I dropped everything and rushed over with my chainsaw and bucked up what I could as soon as the Hydro crew had left. Some of the logs were too big for the 20" bar on my saw, but I cut what I could and we brought it over and stacked it in our wood-splitting area. It was probably about half a cord. In the spring, once it has dried out a bit, we'll split it, along with the other salvaged wood that we have collected, and store it in the woodshed for the winter after next.
In between the gardening and the wood collecting, I made some adjustments to the bookcase that I installed last week. It was designed with a large-screen TV in mind, and this week we got the new TV to fill the space. I had to make some minor modifications to two shelves once I knew the exact dimensions. It definitely improves the look of the living room. Tonight, we watched our first movie on the new screen.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 20-May-2013