St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
The weather seems to have turned a corner this week (he said, hopefully), and the days are mostly sunny and warm-ish. The garden is doing well, especially the weeds. The combination of ideal growing weather and the lack of deer has made the grass in the meadow really take off. It is up to my shoulders in places. When Wendy goes out in the meadow, she needs one of those tall flagpoles that cyclists use for visibility, so that she doesn't get lost.
One of my regular garden chores is to clip the weeds off the electric fence that keeps the raccoons out of the garden. With the sudden growth spurt, there was a veritable jungle around the fence. It took me two days to clip it. I also had to scythe a path through the meadow to the back gate and the compost bins.
The strawberries have a lot of blossoms - it looks like it might be a good year for them. The raspberries, too, are doing well, with a lot of flower buds. This is early to see this many buds on them. The rhubarb continues to threaten to take over the whole island, and we have been forced to eat rhubarb desserts just to get rid of it. Yesterday, Wendy combined getting rid of fresh rhubarb with clearing some more of last year's frozen strawberries out of the freezer and made a strawberry-rhubarb pie. Yum!
Our climbing rose has put on a growth spurt, and has quite a few flower buds developing. It now has a branch under our bedroom window, which we are happy about. We chose that rose largely for its scent, so we are looking forward to warm evenings with the scent of fresh rose blossoms.
On Friday evening, Wendy and I went with some friends to Qualicum Beach to hear a concert by Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser, accompanied by Natalie Haas on cello. The concert was well attended by an audience that, for Qualicum Beach, was fairly young - ours was not the only non-gray hair. The music was excellent, including a lot of slow airs as well as the obligatory jigs and reels. The cello made for some very nice arrangements. At the intermission, we moved to the back row in order to make a "Denman Exit" to catch the ferry home.
On Saturday, we went on a 5 km walk through the woods to Bruce and LeeAndra's Rock Shop for brunch. Every year, they open their lapidary and jewellery shop with a weekend of brunch served al fresco. The weather was perfect for walking and eating out - clear and warm but not too hot. We had some delicious black bean burritos, and then Wendy bought some earrings and a bracelet.
We did some more hiking today, with a 15 km walk through the North Lands, the relatively undeveloped north end of Denman Island which is slated to become a provincial park soon, as part of a development land deal. The area was clearcut in the 1990s, but parts of it are starting to recover.
While the typical trees in Denman forests are made up of Douglas Fir and Red Cedar, the new growth in the North Lands includes a lot of pine trees. Right now, the male cones are ripe, and touching one releases a cloud of pollen. In the photo, Wendy is rubbing a cone, and you can see the cloud of pollen coming from the cone. Needless to say, we checked the wind direction before doing this demonstration, and were careful to stand upwind of the pollen cloud. We get quite enough pollen in our sinuses already!
Yesterday evening, while I was working on the computer, I noticed Owen the cat trotting into the living room from the outside cat door. In his mouth was a dark object. An object with a tail. I yelled, "Mouse!" and we sprang into action. While the little creature escaped from Owen's jaws and ran to hide under the chesterfield, we fetched our mouse-capturing equipment. Wendy wielded a long stick to encourage the mouse to run in my direction, while I held an empty margarine container inverted, ready to drop onto the critter when it emerged from hiding. Owen likes to bring in mice and other small creatures to play with, so we have had plenty of practice, and the capture was speedy and uneventful.
The "mouse" turned out to be a shrew. I released it outside, with a warning to stay away from the cats' enclosure in future. Owen, meanwhile, spent some time searching for his lost toy. Today, unfortunately, we found that the shrew had not heeded my warning. When we returned from our hike, we discovered his remains on the living room carpet. Owen usually doesn't kill his captured prey, but it must be pretty hard to carry a squirming critter unharmed in a mouth equipped with fangs.
On Wednesday this week, Wendy and I took the first ferry to Courtenay to meet up with the Comox District Mountaineering Club for a hike on Quadra Island. The group is not as formidable as the name sounds - they mostly do ordinary trail hiking. This particular hike had been cancelled twice before due to weather, so we were pleasantly surprised when the day turned out to be nice and sunny.
A group of 20 hikers assembled at the meeting place in town and, after arranging car pools, drove up to Campbell River. From there, we ferried across Discovery Channel to Quadra Island. Quadra turns out to be the second-largest of the Gulf Islands (after Texada, and ahead of Salt Spring), and the drive from the ferry dock to the trailhead took 45 minutes.
The destination of the hike was the Surge Narrows lookout, a pleasant beach where one can look across the tidal currents of Surge Narrows on the east side of Quadra Island. Although the Salish Sea (the official alternate name for the combined Strait of Georgia and Puget Sound) fills and drains mostly through the Juan de Fuca Strait, a significant amount of its water passes through the narrow channels at the north end of Vancouver Island, of which Surge Narrows is one. Tidal currents in this area are very fast. Even the big cruise ships time their Inside Passage voyages to pass through Discovery Channel with the tidal current flowing in the right direction, and small craft often have to wait several hours for slack tide before venturing out of their harbours.
We were there on a day when the tides were not extreme, and at a time when it should have been close to slack tide, and yet the current was flowing like we were watching a large river. As the water flowed over submerged rocks, it produced significant rapids, and small islets generated bow waves and wakes.
We ate our lunches on the beach, watching the current and the eagles, and then hiked back to the cars. There was considerable interest among some members of the group in getting back home early. Apparently there was a hockey game on TV that some wanted to watch.
As the ferry pulled out of the bay on Quadra Island on the return trip to Campbell River, we saw a tugboat appear from around the rocky point, heading directly in front of the ferry. Working tugboats are usually followed by a length of cable and some kind of load, and the ferry captain wisely decided to stop and see what was coming. Sure enough, it was towing an enormous empty cargo ship apparently designed to carry logs. Once it passed by, we resumed the crossing. It makes me realize how lucky we are on Denman to be located on a quiet backwater instead of on a busy shipping lane.
Back on Denman, we noticed that work has started on our new public dock. Up until now, we have been the only inhabited island in the known universe without a dock. The ferry dock doesn't count, since BC Ferries does not let anyone else use it. Thanks largely to the tenacity of one man in pursuing the project, contruction has started, and we will likely have a working dock by later this year.
On Thursday evening, we went to a public meeting on emergency preparedness. Denman Islanders tend to be well prepared for run-of-the-mill emergencies like power cuts and storms. The meeting focused on being prepared for anything, especially "The Big One", the large earhquake that will strike the region sooner or later. They say you should be prepared to survive the first 72 hours on your own, and the session included information about how to be prepared for that as well as for possible evacuation.
Owen the cat has been on a hunting binge recently. I mentioned last week about his bringing in a couple of shrews from outdoors. This week, he brought in a mouse and - horror of horrors (for Wendy) - a snake. The mouse was a lively one, a challenge for both of us to round up and escort outside. The snake was either dead or comatose, so it wasn't difficult to catch, but I had to do the work on my own.
The wild roses are in full bloom this week. The first ones started flowering a couple of weeks ago, but now they are everywhere, clashing magnificantly with the yellow Scotch broom that is still in flower. Our cultivated rose is covered in buds that look ready to start opening any day.
Though the weather continues to be cool for the time of year, the garden is doing well. The beans were attacked by slugs when they first broke ground, but the survivors are recovering well. The photo shows some carrots, red spinach and collards.
My solar-powered irrigation system required some maintenance work this week. The battery, which had given four years of fine service, was not holding its charge. Considering that it was in daily use each summer, it did remarkably well. Its replacement is now in service.
On Thursday, Wendy and I hiked out to Tree Island, off the north tip of Denman Island. At low tide, the crossing is a one-kilometre walk across mud flats. From the closest road access, the route follows a few kilometres of beach before crossing the mud flats. After strolling around Tree Island itself, we attempted to cross more mud flats to some other of the islets in the area. However, tidal pools and the creeks draining them blocked the way. A person wearing sandals would be able to do the crossing. Our total hiking distance for the day was 15 km.
On Saturday afternoon, we attended the final concert of the season. This one featured baritone Jason Stearns, accompanied on piano by Miles Graber. He sang arias from several operas by Wagner, Puccini and Verdi, as well as some sea shanties and spirituals. The more classical orientation of this year's concert season has been well-received, and the artistic director is staying on for another year offering more of the same next year.
Work continues rapidly on the Denman Dock. This week, they were back-filling the retaining wall with sand and gravel from the Denman pit. A fleet of trucks was delivering one load every four minutes, all day. They estimated it would take 300 truckloads of fill to complete the job. The metal walkways and floating dock sections are being manufactured on Vancouver Island. The work is apparently ahead of schedule.
Well, it is officially summer. The true start of summer is not the solstice, but the first strawberry harvest. On Thursday, we harvested enough for our porridge. Today, we harvested enough for strawberry shortcake. For the next few weeks, we will be picking berries every day or two. We freeze what we can't eat immediately, and enjoy them for a full year. We have only just finished last year's harvest in time for this year's. I have no pictures, since we were too busy eating them.
Recently, Wendy and I both read a book about Desolation Sound (on the mainland) in which the village of Lund figures prominently. We decided to go over there for a weekend, just because we had never been there.
Lund's main claim to fame is that is is the end (or beginning) of the road. Highway 101, the Sunshine Coast Highway, which is Canada's portion of the Pacific Coastal Highway, begins there, about 20 km north of Powell River. The other end of this unoffical highway is 15,000 km away in southern Chile.
The main industry seems to be catering to the transportation needs of rich cottagers on Savary Island, as well as providing for boaters and kayakers heading into Desolation Sound.
The 8:00 ferry off Denman got us to the ferry dock at Comox in plenty time for the 10:10 ferry to Powell River. As it turned out, traffic was light, and we probably could have taken the 8:40 ferry off Denman. The crossing to Powell River takes an hour and 20 minutes.
The drive north to Lund is uneventful. The road ends rather abruptly: One moment you are driving along a two-lane highway, the next moment, you come around a corner and you are on a boat ramp. At the top of the boat ramp is a rather uninspiring stone pillar that is the official "Mile 0" of the highway.
We spent a couple of hours wandering around Lund, which is all it takes to "do" it fairly thoroughly. We ate a delicious lunch at the "famous" Nancy's bakery. We even had a chance meeting with two dobermans, which made Wendy very happy.
From Lund, we returned to Powell River, where we had booked a room at the Old Courthouse Inn, which, as its name suggests, used to be the courthouse. It is a charming old building, decorated inside with antiques in the hallways and guest rooms. Unfortunately, it is charmingly situated across the street from the pulp mill. However, the smell was not too bad. Apparently, they have cleaned up emissions compared to the old days.
The next day, we wandered around downtown Powell River, checking out art galleries and shops. In one restaurant, we were warned to have an early lunch because they were expecting a couple of hundred Royal Bank employees to walk off the ferry and fill the place. As it turned out, we didn't run into any bankers in the town.
However, as we waited in line for the late afternoon ferry back to Comox, we watched as an enormous herd of bankerly-looking people walked onto the ferry ahead of the vehicular traffic. The large passenger lounge on the ferry was chock-full by the time we got on board. We gathered from the conversation all around that they were on an outing to listen to a concert in Powell River. Someone from the group came around distributing souvenir Royal Bank shopping bags to all the passengers on board. Very nice; now if only they would stop with the telemarketing calls already.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 20-May-2013