St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
The weather has continued to be cool and wet this week. We have more strawberries than last week, but they are all still green. A few are showing a hint of a blush, but none of them are ripe yet. We had better get some warm weather soon, because we only have one container of frozen strawberries from last year left in the freezer.
Though crops that need heat are developing slowly, if at all, and plants seeded this spring are growing slowly, our fruit trees are doing very well. It seems to have been a good combination of a mild winter and a moist spring. Our plum and pear trees in particular are loaded with baby fruit. If we get enough warmth in the summer, we should have a good harvest from them. The grapevine is loaded with flower clusters. Every shoot has at least one cluster on it, so, with good conditions later on (and if we can beat the raccoons to them), we might harvest enough that I will be forced to make wine.
We have cleaned up the yard of the last of the construction debris, and the place is looking quite spiffy. Because everything is so green, it really looks its best at this time of year.
I have been staining the trim on the new deck: the railings now have their two coats. I still have to stain the east wall of the house. That is the wall that is under the new roof. Because it is the weather side of the building, the cedar siding is gray from the rain. With everything else in that area looking shiny and new, a coat of stain is in order to spruce it up.
In spite of the damp weather, we have had a few nice days to walk around the block. The scotch broom is still flowering, but the flower of the season is now the wild rose. They are everywhere along the sides of the roads, and climbing up into trees.
This morning, as a change from our regular walk, we walked over to Bruce and Lee-Andra's for their annual brunch. The walk took us down Pickles Road to where the hiking trail branches off, through a mile of crown forest to Central Park. We then followed the trails in Central Park until we reached the boardwalk across a small marsh. The boardwalk was built last year by the Denman Conservancy Association, which owns Central Park, and connects two trails to make a nice loop route.
From the marsh, we walked on trails that cut across private property until we got to Bruce and Lee-Andra's place. There, they had their Rockin' Café set up: the kitchen is under a tent, and all the tables are al fresco. It was a good day for it, and they had plenty of customers. We had vegan "huevos" rancheros and coffee, chatted with various folks, and then returned by the same route. The walk was an hour each way and avoided any roads except the short stretch of Pickles Road.
The weather this week has been gradually stabilizing. We are still hoping for a normal summer after our cool, soggy spring. We are also still hoping for some strawberries. We have tons of green berries that are still waiting for enough warmth to ripen.
On Monday, we went for a hike to the site of the proposed coal mine across Baynes Sound on Vancouver Island. The weather was ideal for hiking, with the exception of a couple of showers. The objective was for one of the members of our local Coalwatch group's technical committee to gather data on stream flows, and Wendy and I tagged along. I was surprised to learn just how close the mine is going to be to us. The maps that were circulated when the project was first announced showed it as being behind a ridge. Well, the "ridge" turns out to be barely a bump, and the whole project is closer to the coast than to the mountains. The round trip to the site, including side trips to the various streams was only fourteen and a half kilometres.
The photo shows a valley that will be filled in with tailings from the mine. Granted the landscape in the area is already quite industrial due to logging, but an entire watershed and its tributaries will be sacrificed for the mine.
Another walk this week, this time closer to home, was the annual low tide nature walk, led by marine biologist John Tayless. This weekend's low tides, combining the new moon with next week's solstice, were among the lowest of the year. John gave us a guided tour of the full width of one of Denman's beaches from the high tide line all the way to the low tide waterline, explaining the different survival strategies of the inhabitants of each region. He showed us the variety of life that hides under rocks when the tide is out, including vertebrates such as gobies, blennies and midshipmen, invertebrates such as starfish, sea cucumbers and snails, and a tunicate, which is not a vertebrate, but is not quite an invertebrate either, being a non-vertebrate chordate. So there.
In the garden, things are still slow, except for the weeds. The second-season parsnips are now over six feet tall and are flowering. I did a bunch of weeding and spent some time today turning the compost piles. Composting is hardly any work in this climate. Throughout the year, you pile all your surplus vegetation in one or two piles. Once a year, you move the vegetation on top to get at the bottom half of the pile which is beautiful black compost. That's it. Of course, when all the work is compressed into one day, my back has a hard time believing that it is hardly any work, but seriously, it couldn't be any easier.
Also today, I installed my wind and solar radiation instruments on the rooftop. It is part of my program to improve the accuracy of my weather measurements. My wind measurements will never be accurate, thanks to the height of the trees in all directions, but they should be more accurate now than they were in the old location. I still have some wiring to do in the crawlspace to connect the instruments, but I plan to get that done this week in order to get the solar radiation instruments online before the solstice.
Tomorrow morning at 04:28 am, the summer solstice occurs and summer officialy begins. I am not optimistic that summer weather will follow. Normally, by this time of year, we have had several hot spells with temperatures in the high 20s. This year, temperatures have only barely cracked 20°C a handful of times. However, the last couple of weeks have given us less rain and temperatures that are less cool - I hesitate to say "warmer" - than they have been.
The climbing rose has its first bloom, and several more on the way. I suspect that its blooming has more to do with the hours of daylight than the temperature, but we're happy to see it regardless.
We have finally had enough sunny afternoons to convince the strawberries to wake up. They are a week or two behind schedule, but we were able to pick enough for a couple of desserts. As long as the weather continues to warm up, we should have a large crop.
Our beans and butternut squash plants are up and starting to grow, and the rest of our veggies are mostly recognizable. The second-year parsnips that we are growing to seed are now over eight feet tall, and their flowers are full of bees. The weeds, of course, are quite happy with the weather.
We seem to have counted our pears before they were hatched. Initially, we thought we were going to have dozens, but they must have been the remains of unpollinated blossoms that didn't develop. However, we do have a handful. The other fruits are doing well. We have lots of apples, plums and raspberries growing. The grapes have produced a large number of blossoms, and there are plenty of bumblebees around to pollinate them, but this time I am not going to report grapes developing until they actually are. All the fruit, and especially the grapes, are going to need some serious heat if they are going to amount to anything.
We have had enough decent weather to justify dusting off our bikes and taking them out for a spin. Both of us were out riding "around the block" this afternoon.
I haven't been doing any major projects this week, other than trying to get the garden under control. However, necessity prompted me to do some tool-making. The main valve on one of the rainwater cisterns was stuck. I know from experience that trying to force the valve by hand will only break off the handles. Since there was no way to lubricate it, and removing it would make a big, 2000-gallon mess, I decided I needed a special-purpose tool for the job. From a scrap of lumber, a few minutes with a saw and chisel produced a custom-made valve wrench. It worked like a charm.
The weather continues on the cool side of where it ought to be, but we have had several warmish days, warm enough for things to start happening in the garden. The strawberries are now in full production. The photo shows today's berry harvest. We now have to pick at least every second day, or even every day to keep up. There is nothing that can beat fresh strawberries!
Okay, I know that repeating two picture subjects from last week is a bit much, but I couldn't resist this one - the photo is of the dragonfly, not the rose. There must have been a major hatch of dragonflies in the last day or two. The insects have been around for a couple of months, but suddenly, they are everywhere in large numbers. We are happy to have them around because they effectively take care of all the mosquitoes. It is quite fascinating to watch the dragonflies hunting, snatching smaller insects out of midair. The result is that, at least on our own property, we don't need to bother with insect repellent.
This week, Wendy was feeling in need of a Doberman fix. She invited a local Doberman and his human to come over to Denman Island for a short visit. In true Doberman fashion, Cole insisted on being patted continuously for the entire time he was here. We had a fine visit for a couple of hours. Compatibility with the cats wasn't an issue. They made themselves scarce and didn't come out of hiding until they had left, so they never did meet him.
On Thursday, I was in Nanaimo all day for a meeting between the Island Trust Fund (the land conservancy branch of the Islands Trust) and various individual island conservancy groups. Along with three other Denman Islanders, I was representing the Denman Conservancy Association. The objective of the meeting was to provide the Islands Trust Fund with local information about conservation priorities to help them in mapping and eventually acquiring land. It was an interesting opportunity to meet with other conservancy associations and to compare issues, priorities and processes.
On Friday, Wendy and I drove down to Victoria for a brief gataway and to do a bit of shopping. We played tourist, taking the obligatory photo of the Empress Hotel. More importantly, we visited several stores that we don't have in the Comox Valley, like Mountain Equipment Co-op and Lee Valley, and our favourite Chinese vegan restaurant, the Lotus Pond. We only stayed one night in Victoria, because there is so much happening on Denman. Today, I was assembling a drip irrigation system from Lee Valley.
We also took a walk with some friends to Boyle Point, at the south end of Denman Island, for a picnic lunch and to see the eagle's nest that is easily visible down the cliff from the viewpoint. Unfortunately, I forgot the camera. D'oh! There were supposed to be two eaglets in the nest, but we could only see one through binoculars. Since they aren't fledged yet, we can only assume that its sibling met with an early demise. The on-duty parent was standing by a tidal pool down on the beach.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 6-May-2013