St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
We have had a nice spell of Indian Summer this week, after the wet and stormy weather of the previous week. The temperatures have been in the mid to upper teens, with quite a bit of sunshine.
The bigleaf maples had gotten a head start on fall colours due to the summer drought. Now, however, everything is starting to change colour legitimately. The bigleaf maple, in spite of being a close relative of the sugar maple of eastern Canada, does not put on much of a show. The yellow one up the hill in the first photo is about as colourful as these trees ever get.
On our walk today, we took a stroll along the driveway of the Hermitage, our local Buddhist meditation centre. The first thousand feet of their driveway is lined with an assortment of various exotic oaks and maples. I can't tell you what species of maple this is, but it is one of the more colourful trees on Denman Island.
Speaking of colour, did you notice how green the grass is in the first photo? With last month's rain, the grass is suddenly lush and green again. In fact, I was thinking I might have to bring out the lawn mower one more time. Green grass in the fall is just such a strange concept for someone who grew up in Alberta!
With the nice weather, it has been perfect for gardening. I made a couple of trips to the beach to bring back buckets of seaweed for the garden. This being the time of year for planting bulbs, I planted several rows of garlic, mulched generously with seaweed and straw. I used more of the seaweed to feed the asparagus and rhubarb, and put them to bed for the winter under a blanket of straw.
We have still been harvesting raspberries this week. The canes took a break in September and now seem determined to make up for lost time with their second crop. It looks like they will keep producing until they are killed by frost. I harvested the plums that remained on the trees after last week's storm. Only one of them was ripe enough for straight-off-the-tree eating, but they are close enough to being ripe that they will be good stewed.
I will have to do some pruning soon. When the grapes ripened a few weeks ago, the local racoons found that they could get into the garden over top of the fence by using tree limbs and grape vines as elevated walkways. I will have to put a stop to that. There isn't much left in the garden for them to eat, but they have been doing a lot of digging, and leaving "souvenirs" in the grass.
Speaking of animal droppings, on Tuesday, Wendy came across a big pile of bear scat beside the road just down the hill from us. There was no doubt about what it was, and it fit with the rumours we had heard of a bear on the island, feeding on fruit. We have confirmed the sighting with the wildlife committee - it is not just a rumour. The latest word is that someone might have taken a shot at the bear - it is reported to be injured.
In other fall-related activities, Herman the chimney sweep came and gave the chimney its annual cleaning and inspection. It is getting cool enough that a small fire takes the chill off the house in the evenings.
Our woodshed is full, ready for winter. It holds 9 cords, which is enough for about two winters. Keeping a two-year supply of wood is prudent for a couple of reasons. Having extra in the shed means that the wood has been drying for at least two years by the time we burn it, meaning that it burns better, with less risk of chimney fires. Also, in a cold winter, we might burn more than an average quantity. Having extra on hand means we will not be scrambling to locate a supply during a time of high demand.
We might just need some of that extra wood this year. They say that this year's "la Niña" is the strongest since the mid 1950s, meaning a cold snowy winter for the Pacific Northwest. We can always hope that they are wrong.
The warm, dry Indian Summer weather of last week was replaced on Friday by wet, rainy, windy weather. The jet stream was bringing in moisture from the general area of Hawaii, known as a "Pineapple Express", so although it was quite soggy, the temperature was fairly warm.
Today, however, it was sunny and calm, a perfect fall day.
On Saturday, I opened the diversion valves on the rainwater collection system, to stop collecting rain. The tanks are now full enough for the winter. I don't want to have them totally full to the top over the winter, in order to allow some room for freezing. We have 4100 gallons on hand, out of a total capacity of 4500 gallons.
This week, we joined the twentieth century. Yes, I know it is now the twenty-first century, but it's the twentieth that we've caught up to. We actually bought a pair of cellphones. We don't plan to make ourselves available 24 hours a day, and you won't likely see us walking down the street (or, perish the thought, driving) with cellphones to our ears. However, we have often encountered situations in town where having one would have made life much easier, especially since pay phones are now hard to find.
For example, we usually split up on shopping days to take best advantage of our time in town. Typically Wendy will get the groceries while I go to the bank and Home Depot or other errands. If one of us were to get delayed and unable to make the rendezvous, being able to communicate would certainly help. I spent Saturday morning getting the phones set up and learning how to operate them.
On Friday night, we went to see the Agatha Christie play "The Mousetrap". It is the longest-running play in theatre history, having run continuously in London for over 50 years. Worldwide, only one other production of the play is permitted per year, and this year it was Courtenay's turn to get the licence. One of the interesting features of the play is that audience members are sworn to secrecy about who "done it". Until just the last couple of months, the details of the ending had never been published. Wikipedia published the identity of the murderer in August, but we scrupulously avoided looking at it.
However, we were glad that the information is available online, because we never got to see the end of the play, thanks to the necessity of doing a "Denman exit". The "Denman exit" is one of the facts of life of living here. This phenomenon occurs at entertainment events such as plays or concerts that are held in Courtenay. Regardless of the progress of the performance, at 10:30 pm, all the Denman Island residents in the audience get up and leave in order to catch the 11:00 ferry home, the last ferry of the evening. Missing the ferry would be a very expensive option.
Before buying our tickets, we called not once but twice, to find out what time the performance ended. Both times, we were assured that it finished at 10:00. We wouldn't have bought tickets otherwise. It wasn't until we were in the theatre, looking at the program, that we found out that it finished after 10:30. So, at the intermission, we seat-surfed to a vacant pair of aisle seats. All through the second half, I was glancing at my watch. Finally, just as the detective was assembling all the suspects to wrap up the case, we were forced to get up and leave. We had to drive through the peak of the rain storm, but we made it to the ferry in enough time to get home.
Tonight, as is our custom, we celebrated Thanksgiving by having some friends over for dinner. And, as is also customary, it was a fine meal with far too much food, and good conversation.
Wendy is away in Nova Scotia for the next couple of weeks visiting her parents. I took her to the airport on Thursday for the two day flight to Halifax. You can't get from Comox to Halifax on the same day. You either take an overnight red-eye flight, or you stop overnight in Winnipeg, which is what she did.
My main activity this week was attending an Automobile Extrication course on the weekend with several other members from our Fire Department. It was a big class, with 60 attendees from a lot of different Vancouver Island fire departments. We started with a few hours of classroom presentations on Friday night. The whole of Saturday and Sunday was devoted to learning and practicing the various ways of removing a car from its occupants. The department that put on the course is well-qualified to do so, since they look after rescue operations on a bad stretch of the main highway on Vancouver Island.
With the way tourists drive across Denman Island on their way to Hornby in the summer, it is only a matter of time before we have to deal with a serious vehicle crash. We now have nine members who have taken the course recently, in addition to the old veterans who competed and placed well in "Auto-Ex" competitions ten years or so ago. I was particularly glad to take the course, since the chances are good that I will be the Incident Commander on any motor vehicle callout that we get, due to living so close to the firehall and often being the first on the scene.
We spent the first morning learning about the various tools that are used in extrications, both powered and hand tools. They had quite a few "jaws of life"-type tools, including cutters, squishers, and spreaders, as well as combination tools that do all three functions.
We practiced using each of the tools on various derelict cars that they had available on their training grounds. In addition to learning how the tools operate and what they are used for, we learned different techniques for accessing the interior of a car to extract an injured patient. If the doors don't open, we can pry them off with the "jaws"; we can cut open a new "door" for accessing the rear seat of a two-door car; we can remove the entire side of a car; we can fold the roof open or remove it entirely. In the case of a vehicle that is lying upside down, we can tunnel through the trunk, rear seat, and rear window to pull patients out the rear of the car. We learned about the parts you can't cut, such as undeployed airbags that can go "boom" or reinforced structures made of exotic metals that can't be cut.
We also learned about protecting the patients while all this destruction is happening around them. For the last two exercises on Sunday, we had real live human volunteers inside the cars. All of a sudden, patient protection became more than just theoretical! Instead of ripping the car apart in five minutes, the rescues were taking 20 or 30 minutes.
The car in the third picture looked a lot more like a car before we started with it. You can imagine, however, how much easier it is to extract an injured patient through the large opening in the side than it would be to pull him through a window opening for example.
It was an intense course, both mentally and physically, which is why Denman Diary is a day late this week. Still, it was excellent training. The teachers are former firefighters who now teach Auto Ex as a full time occupation, so they really knew their stuff.
My main activity this week has been coughing and blowing my nose. Though my Auto Extrication training last weekend was well worth the time, I picked up a cold there and have been dealing with it all week. I haven't exactly been feeling chipper, so I don't have much in the way of projects to write about.
A scorching-hot habañero pepper chili last night seems to have put the run to the cold (it cleared the sinuses, anyway!), and I was able to accomplish a bit today. With the rainy season upon us, it is time to put up the gutters on the roof of the covered deck. The short sides are accessible from the deck, so I was able to put those up without too much difficulty. The long side, however projects out beyond the deck, and is about 18 feet above ground. Not only is it too high to safely work from a ladder, but there is no solid wall against which to lean one.
So, tomorrow, I will rent scaffolding from the local hardware store. (Yes, they have everything.) A friend with a truck is going to help me transport it. With a bit of luck, I should have the gutter up before the next rain storm.
The downspout will be directed into one of our rainwater storage tanks. There is no point in having a new roof and not taking advantage of it.
Speaking of rain, we had a major rain storm overnight. 25 mm of rain was enough to raise the level in the well by five metres. It is not quite up to its winter level yet, but it is just about there.
While I was under the weather and not feeling like tackling physical labour, my new webcam arrived in the mail. If you ever looked at the old one, you will have noticed that it was a piece of junk. Not only did I want to improve the quality, but I wanted to have more flexibility in positioning it. Because the cable to the computer severely limited my choice of views, I decided to get a wireless webcam. I set it up in one of our outbuildings, where it has a view of the house. It also has a view of the sky, a big improvement for my weather page. And, because it is pointing north, it no longer has to endure having the sun in its eyes at midday.
I have been doing a bit of work in the music room. I have re-installed my music software on the old computer out there, and finished making all the wiring connections. I really depended on the computer for storing my repertoire and as a practice aid. So now, with everything functoning again, I was able to do some serious dulcimer practice. One of the local musicians has been bugging me to get practicing, so he will be glad to hear this.
The cats are adjusting to being without Wendy. Liesl won't let me approach her, but Owen has figured out that my lap works just as well as Wendy's. It is a bit difficult to type with a kitty draped over one arm, but I manage. They will both be happy when she gets back in just over a week. I will too!
This week, my priority has been getting the gutters installed on the deck roof. As I indicated last week, I rented scaffolding from the hardware store. A friend in the fire department helped my by transporting it in his truck and helping with the assembly and tear-down.
I was afraid the job might take a couple of days, but it turned out that errecting the scaffolding was the hardest part of the job. Once it was up, installing the gutters was quick and easy.
That is, until I got to the far corner of the roof. The ground there drops away, and a big tree stump blocks the way. There was no way to move the scaffolding close enough to to that end of the deck to finish the job. Since the gutter sections are ten feet long, I was able to get the final piece in place just by reaching it from the last stable position of the scaffolding. However, there was no way to secure it in place with the necessary clips, or to caulk the seam where it joined the corner piece.
However, when Richard returned with his truck to help tear down the scaffolding and return it, he suggested I borrow his 32 foot extension ladder. The ladder allowed me to get right to the corner, installing the support clips and caulking the corner seam.
It took a couple of days to finish the job, since the caulking has to be done when the gutters are dry and forecast to remain dry for several hours. Of course, the first attempt leaked, and I had to wait until another dry period to try again. However, yesterday, I finally got the seams leakproof, and they held up in a subsequent rain.
Part of the project included plumbing the downspout into one of our rainwater collection tanks. That too is now completed.
On Friday, the fire department was called out to a chimney fire. The number one rule of chimney fires is that it is considered a structure fire until proven otherwise. In this case, unfortunately, it was not proven otherwise - the fire had already spread into the structure of the building. It was a difficult fire to fight, and we were at the scene for eight hours, using more than 30,000 gallons of water. Fortunately, the occupants were all able to get out of the house, and the fire department rescued the cat from an upstairs room. The building was less fortunate.
I managed to get a bruised rib from slipping on the front steps as I exited the building. Ouch! After that, I spent most of the call operating the pumper.
This morning, as I was fixing my breakfast, there was the most gorgeous glow shining into the house from outside. I went outside and snapped this picture of the sunrise on the clouds.
Tomorrow, I have to go to the airport and pick up Wendy who is returning from visiting her parents in Nova Scotia. It will be good to have her home again!
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 6-May-2013