St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
Though the weather has been mostly cool and damp this week, spring continues to advance. May is when the dogwood trees flower, and most of the trees on Denman are putting on a good show. We discovered one dogwood tree on our property last year which has decided not to flower this year, but it is the exception. The dogwood flowers are big and showy, usually a good 6-8 inches across. Some of the older trees are 50 or 60 feet tall and can be covered in the big white flowers.
A couple of times, when walking "around the block", we have seen this flock of wild turkeys. There are about a dozen of them. They or their ancestors probably escaped from someone's domestic flock, but, though some no doubt end up as the guests of honour at Thanksgiving dinners, they fend for themselves and wander freely around the area.
This weekend, the Denman Island Memorial Society, the group that is planning the new "green cemetery" for the island held a planning workshop. They brought over a group of young planners from the Vancouver-based Community Studio group to help them with the exercise. Though Wendy and I didn't participate in the planning process, we did attend the presentation at which they displayed their results. The two options they presented looked well thought out and will make effective use of the space while maintaining the character of the land. We are not planning on using the cemetery ourselves, when the time comes, but we like the idea in principle.
Though we weren't directly involved in the cemetery planning, we billeted one of the young planners from Vancouver. She has just recently (as in that morning!) finished her Landscape Architecture program, a Masters degree at UBC. All the members of the group were in their twenties, and they were obviously a very talented and intelligent group.
This week, I finished assembling and painting the Stevenson screen for my weather station. It is part of an effort to improve the accuracy of my weather observations by relocating the various sensors in more suitable locations. The Stevenson screen is the white louvered box on a stick that you see at official weather stations and in the photo. Its purpose is to shield the thermometers or other sensors inside from solar radiation, in the form of both direct sunlight and heat reflected or radiated from the gound and surrounding objects. Mine will contain my temperature and humidity sensors. I still have to complete the cable installation before I can relocate the sensors.
I am also planning to move the wind sensors to a better location on one of the gable ends of the house. If you look really carefully in the same photo, you can see the new mast installation at the far end of the roof ridgeline, ready for the wind instruments.
The roof over the new deck is now finished, with its six big skylights. We are really happy with the results. We have another contractor scheduled for this week to install the waterproof membrane on the plywood floor. That will be covered with deck boards to match the other deck, and then it will be finished.
Well, almost finished. Once the contractors clean up, I will have a lot of wood staining to do, not to mention new eavestroughs and downspouts to install. Still, it should be the last of having contractors hammering and sawing around the place. The cats will be happy about that, as will Wendy and I.
Late this week, the weather finally started changing to a more summer-like pattern. Though we had been having a fair amount of sunshine, it is only in the last few days that it has started to feel warm.
On Friday, we participated in a broom-pulling bee. We helped with one last year, along the main road. This time, the land we were cleaning up was a recovering clearcut that is owned by the Denman Conservancy Association. It is the principal habitat for the Taylor's checkerspot butterfly, which is found in only a couple of locations on Denman Island, and nowhere else in Canada. Though some checkerspots have been seen already this year, none of us saw any during the work bee.
No butterflies, but lots and lots of broom. Scotch broom is a horribly invasive introduced species which rapidly takes over any cleared land. Because the land in question is the home of an endangered species, the land manager wants to control the broom to ensure that the plants critical to the butterfly's survival are not choked out.
We were using two "broom pullers" supplied by the Pesticide-free Committee. They are large, heavy-duty lever contraptions with jaws at the base. You hook the jaws around the base of the broom plant and haul on the handle. The jaws tighten around the stem and you end up yanking the whole plant out of the ground. At least, that is the way it works on moderate-size broom plants.
Some of the plants we were attacking on Friday were monsters. Because they had been cut back many years ago, they had regenerated with a crown at ground level that made it inpossible to lock the jaws of the broom-puller around them. We often had to dig down to expose enough root to grab onto. Even then, it often took a combined effort of one person on the puller and another levering the opposite side with a shovel to get them out. We only managed to clear about 100 metres along the edge of the road, but that area looks a lot better now.
Our garden is doing well. We have lettuce, kale, beets, parsnips and carrots growing, as well as garlic, asparagus and rhubarb. Most of our newly planted raspberries are showing signs of life, and the well-established ones are looking healthy and potentially productive. The strawberry beds are looking very good and are starting to flower. With any luck, we'll run out of frozen strawberries from last year just about the time that this year's crop starts to come in.
The deck renovation is almost finished. This week, we had a roofing crew here, waterproofing the solid floor under the covered portion of the deck. The waterproof membrane is now covered with pallets of deck boards that match the rest of the deck. The pallets are removable for cleaning. The solid sub-floor provides a dry porch for the basement door, handy when loading firewood in midwinter, and will also provide a roof for a potential greenhouse space under part of the deck.
We have replaced the old sliding patio door with double French doors. We knew it would improve the appearance of both the deck and the living room, but we were pleasantly surprised to see just how much better it looks.
All that remains is about half a day's work completing the railings around the covered portion and some trim. Oh yes, there is still all that staining to do...
Sorry, no Denman Diary this week. I am in Fort Saskatchewan, visiting my father.
Last weekend, I missed posting Denman Diary because I was in Alberta visiting my father. We had a really enjoyable visit.
While I was away, Wendy went on the annual Tree Island walk. Tree Island is a small islet off the north tip of Denman Island which is accessible on foot at low tide. At this time of year, low tide occurs in the middle of the day, and the spring flowers are at their best. The walk is one of a series of nature walks sponsored by the Denman Conservancy Association, and is always well-attended. This time, there were 40 people, which apparently made managing the group a challenge for the coordinator.
This weekend, the May long weekend, is the start of the tourist season on the islands. Most of the tourists head straight over to Hornby Island, which is welcome to have them. However, they all have to cross Denman to get there. Traffic can be heavy when the ferry unloads. The two ferry schedules (Vancouver Island-Denman and Denman-Hornby) are synchronized to facilitate crossing Denman with the minimum fuss. Once an hour, there is a rush of traffic in one direction, followed a few minutes later by a rush of traffic in the other direction.
"Rush" is the operative word. The Hornby ferry is smaller than the Denman one, so there is no guarantee that they will all get onto the second ferry. Even on the way back, they are competing with Denman traffic, so there is still no guarantee that they will get onto the bigger ferry. Because there are two possible routes across Denman, traffic on each route races the other to get to the second ferry first. The Fire Department will no doubt be bushing up on its motor vehicle accident procedures soon.
Speaking of the Fire Department, they have cancelled all burning permits for the rest of the summer. This is something that the DIVFD and other local fire departments started last year, and has been adopted by the provincial Forestry Department this year. Since most brush fires are started by human activity, and conditions get dangerously dry in the summer, it just makes sense to prohibit intentional open fires.
This weekend, we went on the Denman Island Pottery Tour. Most of the island's potters keep their studios open to the public all year round, but once a year, they put on an organized tour. The quality of the work is consistently high, and some of the potters have international reputations. Wendy's friend and former co-worker Vivian came over from Courtenay and we had a good time touring the studios. We were very well-behaved, and only bought a few pieces more then we intended to. (The photo, I hasten to add, is of a studio display, not of our own purchases!)
I have finished staining the deck, aside from a bit of trim, and we are very happy with the result. I haven't posted a photo of the completed project, so here is a long shot of the house from out in the meadow, showing both sides of the new deck and the new roof over the east side. The low, boxy structure to the right of the house is the woodshed.
The meadow is at its best right now. In the last week, everything green has suddenly doubled in size. The grass in the meadow is now almost waist-high. All the leaves are fully out on the deciduous trees, and the conifers have sprouted big bushy masses of bright green new needles at the tips of all their branches. Most of our veggies in the garden are big enough to be distinguished from the weeds, which is a good thing, because the weeds are downright scary!
This afternoon, we went to a community birthday party for Jimmy Tait, one of the "characters" of the community. She (This Jimmy is a she) is 90 years old and still keeps one of the best gardens on the island. The community hall was packed with islanders wishing her well and enjoying stories about her.
This has been a fairly uneventful week. Wendy has been nursing a cold, and the weather has been too cool and rainy to do much outdoors.
Everyone is complaining about the weather. Frequently, they complain to me as the weatherman, until I point out to them that, when it comes to weather, I am in advertising, not management. In March, after a mild winter, everything was a full month ahead of schedule. Now, in late spring, gardens are not ahead at all and are in danger of falling behind schedule.
In the garden, the weeds are loving all the rain. With the newer plantings, it is hard to identify the vegetables among all the weeds. The perennials are doing well. We have carrots, parsnips and turnips left over from last year that we are intentionally growing to seed this year. All are exceptionally vigorous. The parsnips are at eye level, and I have to look up to see the tops of the turnips. (Lest there be any confusion, I am talking about the tops of the plants, not the roots!)
Our strawberries are very prolific this year. There are lots and lots of blossoms, and, for a while, it looked like we were in for a bumper crop. Now, however, we have a lot of green berries that are more likely to mould than ripen. There is no sunshine in the forecast until maybe next weekend at the earliest.
Our climbing rose is growing well and has quite a few flower buds on it. We are not expecting them to open yet, since it flowers in mid- to late summer, but it looks healthy. I gave it a feed of horse manure this week, which, with all the rain, should make it happy. It will probably want some sunshine before it flowers, though.
On Wednesday, the showers stopped long enough for the grass to dry out. As you can imagine, the grass loves this weather and is growing about as fast as the turnips. (By the side of the road, there is grass that is chest-high!) I took advantage of the dry spell to get out the lawnmower and cut it all before it got out of control. It was just as well that I did. By the next day, I heard people grumbling that they missed their chance to cut their grass and now they would have to scythe it.
I spent some time working on the outdoor lights under the roof of the new deck. The lights were already wired in, but the old fixtures were ugly, industrial things that were in urgent need of replacing. I first had to do some woodworking to create a level surface among the boards and battens on which to mount the new light fixtures.
I had trouble getting them to work, though. It turned out that there was no power at the switch. My first thought was that the construction had damaged the wiring. If that were the case, it was imperative that I find the damaged section and replace it. I started tracing wires and found that they didn't go where I thought they did. A trip up into the attic convinced me that wire tracing was going to be a lot more challenging than I had thought. Overnight, however, the though occurred to me (as these things do) that there was a circuit breaker on the panel whose function I had never determined. Hmmm. A circuit without power and a breaker with no load... I wonder if they might be related. This morning, one little "click", and two mysteries were solved.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 20-May-2013