St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
Well, unfortunately, we weren't able to keep Caine the doberman. It wasn't his fault. He was a sweet dog. His old injuries weren't causing problems, other than poor vision.
However, the cats couldn't adapt to his being there. The few times they ventured out of the basement, he chased them. He was only curious - probably just wanted to sniff their butts - but they couldn't get over being chased. They spent all their time cowering in the basement, eyes wide with stress. Perhaps, in time, they could have adapted - or perhaps not. We had to decide quickly, because it wouldn't be fair to the dog to let him bond to us and then not keep him.
So, we took him back to the rescue organization. They weren't too pleased about that; apparently, they considered a cat hiding for weeks to be normal. Well, normal or not, we just couldn't do that to our kitties. Owen loves to sit on Wendy's lap. Not being able to do so for ten days was tragic.
So, we have accepted that, as long as the cats are still with us, we can't have a dog. The cats are a lot happier.
This week's other major event was the annual World Community Film Festival, held in Courtenay. The festival consists entirely of documentaries, and runs all day in four different venues. It is physically impossible to see all the films, so we had to make some difficult choices. We ended up watching films about the history of civil rights struggle in the U.S. in the 1950s and 60s told through songs; the hate-crime death of a gay Native American teenager; the lives of four wormking women in Africa; an untimately successful non-violent protest against the the Israeli wall in Palestine; and the cultural imperialism of modern education in developing countries.
In the garden, we have daffodils coming up. I harvested the last of last year's carrots and parsnips.
Well, spring must be officially here, because the snowdrops are up. Actually, various bulbs, mostly daffodils, have been up for a while, but the snowdrops are flowering. These ones are down in the garden, which is quite a sheltered spot. The daffodils in other areas of our yard are still asleep, which is a bit late for them. Usually, they would at least be above ground by now.
Chances are that we are past the season of severe cold (lows below -5°C) for this winter, so I have started topping up the water tanks for the garden. I have transferred water from the upper tanks to the lower tank at the back of the garden and set the collection valves to start catching rain again. A day or two of steady rain should top them up. If we do get another cold snap, I can always dump a couple of hundred gallons again to protect the plumbing from freezing.
The reason for being keen to collect water is that this year is starting to look like a re-run of 2008, which was tied for the driest year in recent history. The La Niña pattern this winter looks very similar to the one in 2008, and the precipitation pattern is likewise very similar. In that year, the rainy season ended in mid-January, and rain was nearly nonexistent from then until the fall. The rainfall pattern so far this year has repeated that, and we are considerably below normal for the year already. Let's hope the pattern changes before summer.
We are having a deer fence put up around the cleared area of the yard. Fences are uncommon here - the normal thing is to have the vegetable garden fenced and leave the rest unfenced. However, the deer eat anything and everything, even plants that are advertised as being deer-resistant. The problem is that the deer have no genetic knowledge of what to eat, and are not taught well by their mothers. The result is that each young deer has to learn for itself what tastes good and what doesn't. It does this by sampling everything, even the deer-resistant varieties.
We want to grow more than just vegetables. Maybe some lilac bushes; some rhododendrons; certainly some more apple trees. Rather than having to place an ugly cage around each individual plant, it made more sense to fence the yard. It means having a gate at the end of the driveway that we will have to remember to close, but it will be worth it to be able to grow stuff.
It's a big job, and rather than trying to do it all myself, we have hired a local contractor to do the work.
Right now, I am keeping busy with preparation for a course that the Fire Department is sending me on next weekend. They are training me to be a Qualified Fire Service Instructor. I'll almost be a "QFI" once again! (In the Air Force, my job title was "Qualified Flying Instructor" - QFI). I did a similar course back in those days, but it's been a while so a refresher is a good idea. To prepare for the course, I have to write lesson plans - almost as exciting as watching grass grow.
Every Tuesday morning, Wendy walks to one of the local marshes to count trumpeter swans. It is part of a program throughout the Comox Valley to document their winter habits. It is a frustrating exercise, because in the last two years, there have been hardly any swans on Denman Island. Earlier this month, she saw one swan on her assigned marsh, which is one more than last year.
This week, she didn't see any swans, though she did see two ducks. However, she took the camera, and snapped a nice photo of the marsh.
It is just as well that she did, because the remainder of this week's photos are less of less pleasant weather. Arctic air from across the water in Canada has invaded our island. On Friday morning, we woke up find that heavy snow had started to fall, and was accumulating rapidly. I was just able to move the car up to the top of the driveway before it became impassable.
Temperatures so far have only dropped a couple of degrees below freezing, so the rainwater plumbing should have survived. I drained the above-ground pipes after I topped up the tanks last week, and the tanks themselves won't have frozen enough to do damage. However, they are forecasting temperatures down to -9 later this week, so I will have to dump the water I collected last week. That is cold enough to cause problems. Luckily tonight's forecase low is above zero, so I should be able to operate the valves tomorrow.
My main activity this week has been preparing for and attending the Fire Service Instructor's course. It was held at the Comox Fire Department's training facility, and ran from Friday evening to this afternoon. It was a busy course which required a lot of preparation. It was very hands-on, and aimed at teaching us how to teach the kinds of skills required in a fire department environment. The instructors are excellent, and it was a well-run course. Two of us from Denman Island attended, along with firefighters from various departments from Nanaimo to Campbell River.
Friday's weather was a concern for getting to and from the course, with temperatures dropping and snow falling through most of the day. We were worried about whether, driving on bad roads, we would be able to make the last ferry home after the Friday evening session. We decided to be prudent and take a toothbrush, a change of clothes, and everything we would need on Saturday, just in case we weren't able to make it back, and I got authorization from the Chief to charge overnight accommodation to the Department.
However, by the time Friday evening's class ended, the snow had stopped, and roads weren't too bad. We made it to the ferry in time.
The weather this week has been unseasonably wintry. That may sound odd to those not living on the west coast, after all February is usually considered to be part of winter, but here, we expect crocuses to be flowering and daffodils and tulips to be growing in February. February is the month when we start planning the garden.
With overnight lows forecast to be around -9 several nights this past week, I took advantage of the last above-zero temperatures on Monday to drain about 500 gallons from the rainwater tanks, just enough to ensure that the overflow pipes were dry. I then drained the underground pipes which were never intended to be frost-proof. Luckily, we can expect to get more rain before summer, so replacing the water before gardening season shouldn't be a problem.
On Wednesday afternoon, it started snowing heavily, giving us an accumulation of about 20cm of fluffy Alberta-type snow. On Thursday, we went into Courtenay for our regular biweekly shopping trip. At that point, Pickles Road had not yet been plowed, so I had to keep the chains on the tires to get out to the main road. Once we were in the ferry lineup, I took them off. In town, they had had no snow at all.
In fact, we have noticed that snow tends to be very localized, even on Denman Island. We live at the top of the ridge, one of the highest points on the island, and we usually get more snow than anywhere else. Sometimes even walking downtown, a distance of less than a kilometer, will get us out of the snow belt just due to the change in elevation.
On Sunday, we attended a concert by the British Columbia Boys Choir. It is an English-style boys choir, meaning that it has sopranos, altos, tenors and basses, as opposed to a Viennese-style choir, which would have only sopranos and altos. They have 28 members. They have gone on international tours in the past, and were featured at the Vancouver Winter Olympics last year. Their music was mostly on the theme of cultural diversity, with a few classical pieces added, including an acceptable version of Bach's Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring and an arrangement of Beethoven's Ode to Joy. It was a short concert, with no intermission, because they had to catch a ferry back to the mainland, but it was very enjoyable.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 6-May-2013