St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
The main event this week was picking strawberries. Picking them, and trying to find containers to freeze them in and space in the freezer in which to put them. Oh yes, and eating them! I'll spare you yet another photo.
Besides the berries, the other events this week were Canada Day and the Fire Department's annual pancake breakfast. Canada Day on the island is pretty low-key. For many, such as people in the building trades trying to take advantage of the good weather, it is just another work day. For others, it is just another day in the garden. Wendy and I celebrated by going to the Bistro for coffee, and then watching the start of a parade put on by the local horse club. The objective of the parade was to ride down to the ferry dock to greet tourists arriving on the island. Since we aren't crazy about having tourists here at all, we just watched the horses and then left to walk around the block.
Yesterday, we went to an open house at the studio of local painter Leslie Dunsmore. We enjoyed touring her garden and looking at her newest paintings, of course, but we were also captivated by the swallows that live in a bird house on the gable end of her house. The baby birds were just taking their first flight that day. I caught this little fellow sitting in the doorway of the bird house trying to decide if jumping out was really such a good idea.
Today's big event was the annual Fire Department pancake breakfast. It is a major production, involving the entire department, the ambulance crew, several other island organizations, and several weeks of planning. Our Thursday evening "practice" this week consisted of preparations: sweeping out the hall, washing the trucks, cleaning grills, and borrowing about 30 picnic tables. This morning, we were reminded at 6:15 am by our pagers that we were expected at the hall at 6:30. The trucks had to be parked in a special configuration that gets them out of the way, but still keeps them on display and, more importantly, available to respond in the event of an emergency. Grills were set up for bacon, veggie sausages and pancakes, tables set up for serving food and buying tickets, raffle prizes were displayed, and picnic tables had to be covered with paper. Pancake batter was mixed up, strawberries sliced, coffee brewed, and, amazingly, at 9:00, when the first customers were served, everything was ready.
I had my camera with me, but things were rather busy, so I was only able to take pictures of the setup. How many firefighters does it take to light a grill?
The breakfast was very successful. The forecast showers did not materialize, but a cloud cover kept it from being a scorcher. For two and a half hours, the lineup was steady. We estimated that we served around 600 or 700 breakfasts. When you consider that the permanent population of Denman Island is only about 1100, that is a major community event, probably the biggest single event on the island.
Part way through the breakfast, the Fire Department was called to a medical emergency. A callout during the pancake breakfast is something that we always consider in planning the event, but it has not happened since the very early days of the department. We were able to demonstrate, in front of a large crowd, how quickly and professionally we can respond. A crew quickly manned the carefully-positioned First Responder vehicle, while other people moved in to take over the abandoned grills. As it turned out, only a three-person crew was required, and the breakfast continued without missing a beat. In the event of a major fire during the breakfast, the entire department would be required, but spouses, junior members and friends of the department would take over the breakfast operation.
The cleanup after the breakfast normally proceeds quickly. The biggest single part of the cleanup involves returning the 30 borrowed picnic tables to their owners, and requires several large flatbed trailers. Today, we only had one trailer, and it was after 3:00 before we were finished. While we were hanging around the hall waiting for the trailer to return for another load, this polyphemus moth fell out of an outdoor light fixture. It was quite large, though apparently they can grow even bigger, and had very striking markings. It seemed quite dopey, but eventually it flow off into the forest.
Well, finally, summer seems to have arrived! This week, we have had temperatures in the high 20s and even a few days over 30°C.
The strawberries have responded by producing in bucketloads and demanding to be picked at least every other day. Of course, now it is usually too hot to pick any time except early morning or late evening. The raspberries have started to wake up, though they are not producing yet. There are lots of immature berries on them that we are hoping will grow and ripen in the next few weeks.
We have been eating salads of home-grown greens, and the beans, parsnips and carrots are coming along. I planted some beets this week for fall and winter harvesting.
It has actually been warm enough this week to spend some time in the hammock reading.
Our local deer are also relaxing in the heat. It is funny to see the "little" baby deer that we fed two winters ago because they were so scrawny come back with nice big antlers.
Today, Wendy and I walked across to Cable Beach on the east side of the island. It is one of the more accessible beaches on Denman, and is about a 45 minute walk from our place. In spite of its being a warm but not hot summer weekend, there was not a person to be seen on the beach. There are advantages to having beaches that are rocky instead of sandy.
The beach slopes away very gently at Cable Beach, and the midday low tide was one of the lowest of the year, so we were able to walk a long way out, looking at the marine life in the tidal pools and just enjoying the stroll. The photo is looking back at Denman Island from near the low tide waterline.
This evening, we went to a choral concert at the community hall. The choir, Aarhus Pigekor, is a Danish girls choir, in this part of the world for the biennial Powel River International Choral Kathaumixw, which just wrapped up yesterday. The Powell River event is a major choral music festival that we intend to go to one of these years. All the more so after hearing this choir.
The various choirs are now on individual tours of British Columbia. The tours were booked months ago, but we must have had especially good karma, because Aarhus Pigekor not only won prizes in several individual categories, they were also rated the best overall choir at Powell River.
The choir consisted of about 35 girls aged 16-25. They sang a wide variety of music, much of it in English, with some Latin, Japanese and of course Danish. We both like choral music anyway, but this group was really outstanding. The highlight of their concert was Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". It is a fine song, but horribly overdone, with some truly dreadful versions out there, as well as some beautiful ones. Well, this choir's version was without exaggeration the best version I have ever heard. Audiences will stand for just about anything, but they deserved both standing ovations tonight.
In spite of this having been a particularly busy week, there's not a lot to report.
The weather is so predictable (to anyone except Environment Canada) that it is becoming boring: the temperature rises rapidly to 21°C in the morning, then gets stuck there for the rest of the day. This in spite of Environment Canada's optimistic forecasts of temperatures anywhere from 24°C to 27°C. Still, 21 is not bad, and it has been consistently sunny.
The reason for the busy-ness this week was the annual Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival. In addition to attending most of the readings and other festival events, we hosted one of the writers, Brian Brett. He is the author of Trauma Farm, a memoir of small farm life and an examination of sustainability, ecology, and our relationship to the land. He is also a poet, a very intelligent man, and a great guest.
All the festival authors are billeted in the homes of islanders, as is the case for most visiting performers. Our guest cottage is ideal for this. Brian arrived on Thursday afternoon, and we got to talk to him over breakfast each day of the festival.
The normal routine is that the hosts provide accommodations and breakfasts, and the festival organizers take care of all the other details. However, this time, we ended up with a few extra duties, as Brian's truck broke down just as he arrived in our driveway: a major leak in one brake line. In between festival events, we had to arrange for an island mechanic to come and look at the problem. There are no tow trucks on Denman Island, and getting a tow truck from town is not a reasonable option. Neither is trying to get down the ferry hill with no brakes!
We were able to order the necessary parts from town, delivered to the Buckley Bay ferry. I skipped out of a couple of festival events to take the ferry accross to pick them up on the other side. By Saturday afternoon, the mechanic had maufactured and installed (without benefit of a hoist, but with assistance from your truly) a complete new brake line, we had bled and tested the brakes, and Brian's truck was roadworthy again.
I am sure it was an adventure that he could have done without, but hopefully it will contribute to our festival's reputation for hospitality to the writers. We have heard rumours that it is already developing that reputation. We also heard that the Globe and Mail rated it one of the top three writers' festivals in the country. Certainly, this year's edition was a great success.
The weather this week has been seasonably warm, with temperatures in the low to mid 20s and lots of sunshine. We have had no significant rain since June 14th, and none at all since July 1st, so things are starting to get bone dry. Yesterday, Forestry raised the fire hazard for this area to Extreme, and the members of the Fire Department are hoping that there will be no brush fires.
We are using an average of 30 gallons of stored rainwater per day in the garden. One tank is now empty, and we are working on the second tank. At this rate, we have enough water to last until October, by which time we will hopefully have had some rain. However, in the future we want to expand the garden, and we can see now that we could use one more tank.
One plant that likes the hot dry weather is Wendy's portulaca, which she grows in several pots on the deck.
The strawberries have finally just about stopped producing. Yesterday, from the three beds, we got just enough berries for a couple of bowls of cereal. Though they started late, we had a good run with them and now have lots in the freezer.
The timing couldn't have been better, because the raspberries are now in full production. They should have been producing before now, and Wendy was getting a bit suspicious that someone was eating them. So far, we have not enclosed the raspberries like we have with the strawberries, so they were open picking for any bird that came along. And apparently quite a few were. I covered the raspberry patch with a big net, and suddenly we have plenty of berries. We caught a couple of young robins who managed to get under the net and had to be cut free, but the openings through which they entered are now closed up tight and we have had no more incidents.
My main project this week has been to replace the kitchen window. The old window was a cheapie aluminum-framed slider unit which wept copiously from condensation in the winter time. It also had a sill that was quite high relative to the counter height, making working at the kitchen sink feel claustrophobic. The new window is a vinyl-clad casement window that is of much better quality. I ordered it 9 inches taller than the old one to improve the lighting and view in the kitchen.
Of course, changing the size of the window meant doing some surgery on the structure of the wall. Fortunately, the extra size was at the bottom, structurally the least problematical direction in which to expand an opening. Still, I had to peel off the siding, remove the old window, cut down the studs without making too much of a mess inside the kitchen, and then reframe the opening. I got the new window installed in the opening on the first day, an essential milestone in order to cat-proof the project.
Yesterday, I reinstalled the siding and completed the exterior work. Now, I am working on the interior trim. That will take a few days, as there is drywall to repair, and the casing pieces have to be stained. Already, even unfinshed, the kitchen looks a lot better.
In between working on that project, I took advantage of the empty rainwater tank to re-work some plumbing connections on it. One of the posts for the new deck ended up directly in front of my fire department connection, and I needed to replace a broken valve. The valve in question is the only thing holding water in the tank, so it can only be worked on when the tank is empty. The odd arrangement of the pipes is a result of changes to the design after the tank and the buried pipe were in place. However strange it may look, everything went together properly with no leaks. I have a nice shiny new valve, and the fire department connection is pointing in a useful direction now.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 6-May-2013