St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
While out walking "around the block" this week, Wendy and I discovered that someone had recently dumped a truckload of garden debris and assorted garbage on the conservation land to the north of us. Illegal dumping has been a problem in the area for a while, though with improved signage and some publicity, it had slowed down in recent months. This time, the garbage included identifiable plant tags, so it might be possible to identify the culprit. If you grow "Molineux" and "Mme. Hardy" roses, you or someone you employed may be an irresponsible litterbug. No doubt, laziness and a desire to pocket the ferry fare and tipping fees motivated this crime, though composting the stuff at home would have accomplished the same thing less antisocially while producing a beneficial byproduct.
The area where the stuff was dumped is an important recovering clearcut that is the only Canadian habitat of the critically endangered Taylor's Checkerspot butterfly.
On a lighter note, this was the weekend of the annual Christmas Craft Fair. It is known as the biggest and best seasonal craft fair in the area, and it draws a lot of people from Vancouver Island. The weather was ideal for it: sunny and bright on Saturday, cloudy but pleasant on Sunday. As a result, both halls were crowded. The crafts, as usual, were of the highest quality.
In addition to the craft boothss, there are several booths for island charities to present information about themselves. There are only a limited number of charity booths, and participating organizations are chosen by lottery. This year, two of the organizations of which I am a board member were chosen to have booths, so I had the honour to represent them both. On Saturday, I did a two-hour shift for the Conservancy Association and, today, another two-hour shift for the Hermitage, our local Buddhist retreat centre. In both cases, they were good opportunities to explain the organizations to residents and visitors.
In between manning the information booths, Wendy and I wandered around admiring the crafts. Though we tried to resist the temptation, it just wasn't possible. We bought a very nice folding cedar patio table, and two miniature watercolours. The table will be perfect on our new deck or, when we have guests, out on the cottage deck.
This week's story was the weather. On Tuesday, a classic Pineapple Express system rolled in. In a Pineapple Express, a low pressure in the Gulf of Alaska teams up with a high pressure off Baja California to pull warm, moist subtropical air from Hawaii right over the Pacific Northwest.
The temperature started rising on Monday as the warm air arrived, followed by the rain on Monday evening. It rained continuously and heavily for the whole of Tuesday, midnight to midnight, with the temperature staying steady at 8 degrees, before tapering off to showers on Wednesday. The total rainfall for the system was 88 mm, 73 of it falling on Tuesday alone.
The systems driving the Pineapple Express stayed in place, and we were expecting another one this weekend, but most of the moisture stayed to the south this time.
Of course, all wetlands on the island are now full to overflowing. Pickles Marsh is up to within six inches of the bottom of the bridge. When it gets that high, it drains across the roadway at a low spot beyond the bridge. On Tuesday, of course, it was raining too hard for Wendy to consider doing her regular walk around the block. By Wednesday, with the rain having lightened up a bit, the water was still too high across the road for pedestrian traffic. By Thursday, when this picture was taken, the water was still flowing across the road, but it had gone down enough that one could get through with wet shoes.
We still see our regular deer hanging around the house. This fellow is a couple of years old. Two years ago, his first winter, he was scrawny and small, with a mangey coat - probably a late-season fawn. We were not at all sure that he would survive the winter, which was a long, cold one. We ended up feeding him and two other youngsters who were hanging around the house. We have been watching the three of them ever since - the "three amigos", we call them.
The thin, scrawny fawn of two years ago has filled out nicely, and is now a healthy young adult. The other male deer of his year all have antlers, small as befits young deer, but respectable. This poor fellow, though, just couldn't quite manage a normal set of antlers. One of them broke off last month, but this was as big as they got. We think he probably gets good cell phone reception with that thing!
On Saturday evening, we attended the annual Fire Department Christmas Dinner. It is a large event. With firefighters, auxilliary members, juniors, friends of the department, and spouses, there were over 60 people in attendance. It was a fine evening, with a large meal, speeches, and awards both serious and humourous.
There was considerable competition for the driving award, and the recipient had to be decided by secret ballot. Entries consisted of pulling out of the truck bay with several compartment doors open, with consequences to both the compartment doors and the bay door; getting an ambulance stuck in mud, requiring extrication by the fire department; and having the brakes on the fire truck catch fire. It was a close contest: the brakes catching fire won by one vote. Fortunately, I was not in the running for that award.
My project this week has been making a shelf above the kitchen stove. There was an old metal range hood there which was ugly, hard to clean, and didn't really serve any useful purpose. The shelf looks a lot better and will be more practical. I still have to do a bit of wiring to connect the under-shelf light.
On Friday, we were treated to a concert by the Foothills Brass, a quintet based in Calgary. Attendance for this concert was down, probably due to its being scheduled for a weekday afternoon. Still the turnout was reasonable, and we were glad we went, because the music was good. We both enjoy listening to brass ensembles. As is to be expected at this time of year, the program consisted mostly of Christmas tunes.
Friday evening was "Moonlight Madness" night, the one evening of the year when Denman shops are open for late shopping. The downtown sidewalks were decoratively illuminated by rows of tea-light candles in paper bags. The effect was quite pretty, but didn't last long, as the candles are of lower quality this year and burned out rather quickly. Unfortunately, the event was poorly attended, since it was competing with the Seniors' Association annual Christmas dinner and dance.
We went out for supper, having vegan chili at the Café and candy cane brownies at the Bistro. We had some mulled wine at one of the real estate offices, and browsed the merchandise in the various stores. Moonlight Madness is really more of a social event than a shopping extravaganza, but we did our part for the local economy and bought some artwork. We had fun visiting with the various proprieters and other customers.
On Saturday evening, we were invited to a Christmas soirée at the house of some friends. Their house looks like something out of a fairy tale, and inside was decorated for the season with literally hundreds of wooden soldier nutcrackers.
This evening the Community Christmas Dinner was held at the hall. This event started years ago as a way to brighten the season of some of the island's homeless and destitute people. However, rather than single them out, it quickly developed in an egalitarian spirit to include everyone on the island. The hot food is provided by donation, and cooked and served by volunteers. Salads and desserts are pot-luck. Literally everyone attends, and both the main hall and the back hall are packed for two sittings.
Since this is the last Denman Diary before Christmas, I would like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas.
This week's story, aside from the obvious one of Christmas, was the weather. We had a three-day Pineapple Express blow in, the second one this month. Once again, our weather was coming straight from Hawaii, with warm temperatures and lots of moisture. Our rainfall total for the three days was 154 mm, over 6 inches.
We went into Courtenay on Monday evening for a vegan dine-out with some of our Denman Island friends. The vegan dine-outs are held every couple of months. The organizers take over a restaurant for the evening and, for a fixed fee, produce a set menu that is 100% vegan. It introduces people to different restaurants and often introduces the the restaurants to the concept of veganism. The food this time was a buffet and both it and company were excellent.
Though there was some slushy snow and rain while we were in Courtenay, the weather was not too bad. We knew that the big storm was still to come later in the week, and we were glad not to have had to go back into town later. We saw pictures of some major flooding in Courtenay. The part of the town that is in the estuary of the Courtenay River lies very close to sea level. At this time of year, the tides on the full moon are exceptionally high, and there is one park that often has water over some of the grass at high tide in December. Well, combine the full moon solstice tides with Pineapple Express rainfall and an onshore wind, and you have a recipe for serious flooding. According to the pictures, the entire park was under deep water, and surrounding businesses were sandbagging to keep the water out of their premises.
The local ski hill, Mount Washington, is about 3000 feet up in the mountains, and so all the precipitation fell there as snow. As of the end of this week, it had the most snow of any ski hill in the world. In fact, the staff were complaining that there was so much snow they had to dig the chair lifts out. The snow pack at mid-mountain was reportedly nearly five metres.
Here on Denman, there is some localized flooding, but nothing serious. Our property is on a well-drained hillside, so we have no standing water. Our neighbours across the street are not so lucky. They have a small pond with a bench beside it that in summer is a pleasant place to sit. A couple of days ago, the bench was surrounded by a greatly-expanded pond. In fact, the day after the second photo was taken, the water had risen high enough to float the bench right off the ground. When last seen, it was sailing off towards the northwest.
The Pineapple weather system included a couple of days of very high winds. Our storm winds invariably come from the southeast. After our experience with the big storm of 2006, any time the wind blows hard, people on Denman get nervous. Wendy and I get out all our flashlights and leave then in strategic places around the house. I have been known to wear a headlamp around my neck just to ensure that it is accessible in the event of a power failure. The biggest cause of power failures, of course, is trees falling down on wires. However, most of the unstable trees must have come down in 2006, because storms since then have not brought many more down.
We only had one power failure this week. Even more surprisingly, BC Hydro had it fixed in little more than an hour. We are not sure if it was coincidence or good planning, but they had a work crew already on the island. It was a good thing, because apparently the ferry shut down for at least part of the storm.
The fire department got called to another power line down, this time late in the evening, after all the work crews had left. There is nothing we can do about a line down, since we have to assume that it is still live. We set up a barricade on the road, fully aware that people wanting to get in or out of the area were going to drive around the barricade and over the wires. All we can do is make sure they know that is what they are doing. Hydro came out to fix it the next day.
This being the "holiday season", there are more visitors and tourists on the island than is normal in winter. (The distinction between visitors and tourists is that visitors are staying with people they know; tourists are strangers.) As we started out on a walk yesterday, we were passed by these apparent vistors. No one who lives here would be dressed in spandex, nor be running down the road pushing a high-tech racing pram. On the other hand, neither would most tourists.
We were stopped later on the same walk by some people who definitely were tourists. They wanted to know where the government dock was. We had to chuckle, and informed them that Denman Island was in fact the only inhabited island in the known universe without a dock. That may change in the next couple of years, but strictly as a result of local efforts, not the government. The tourists, back of the vehicle crammed with fishing gear, seemed disappointed.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 20-May-2013