St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
This week's big event, of course, was picking up Wendy at the airport, after her three weeks in Nova Scotia. Though I survived her absence, I am very glad that she is home. Fortunately, she feels the same way. She had a good visit with her parents, though.
Last Sunday's major rainfall was followed on Monday by a major wind storm. As is common in wind storms, the power failed mid-morning. Since I had to run errands in the afternoon and then pick up Wendy at the airport, I decided to go into town early, in case I ran into traffic problems from failed traffic lights or lineups in stores due to out of action cash registers. As it turned out, most of Courtenay had power restored by the time I got there. However, I brought Wendy home to a dark house, and had to get the generator fired up for the evening.
I booked off work on Tuesday due to the lack of power. It was finally restored late on Tuesday morning.
Having Tuesday off, I was able to attend the Ferry Commissioner's meeting. Much of the discussion centered around the proposed cable ferry, which is outside of the Commissioner's jurisdiction. However, there were some good points raised about serious flaws in the Coastal Ferries Act, a subject on which he specifically wanted feedback. We'll see if the process produces any significant results. I am not holding my breath.
The virginia creeper at the entrance has turned bright scarlet. It is the most colourful of our fall foliage. The bigleaf maples turn a nondescript shade of brown, and the alders don't change colour at all, so we depend on shrubs and vines for our fall colour.
I have been finishing a new door for the bedroom. It was originally planned for the bedroom, but somewhere along the way, we changed our minds and were going to put it on the bathroom. As it turns out, though, it is the wrong size for the bathroom, so now it is back to the bedroom.
The old door is one of those generic hollow slab doors. Pretty ugly. The new one is a nice real wood panel door made of alder. I have stained it with a light gold stain and coated it with polyurethane. Having trimmed it for length and installed the hardware, I encountered one of the hazards of this house: though the house is solidly built, it is not built with precision. I will have to trim both the top and one side of the door to get it to fit the frame.
I have also been working on a new version of my well depth gauge. It looks like it will be a major improvement over the old one. Considering how much our well level fluctuates between winter and summer, knowing how it is behaving is quite important. The water level rose about ten metres with last week's rain.
This morning, Wendy looked out the kitchen window and saw this barred owl sitting on the railing of our deck. Barred owls are common around here, and we often have conversations with them. If you hoot at them, they will hoot back. However, it is rare to see one. They normally hang out in the forest, where they sit perfectly still and practically invisible on a tree branch. It was quite a treat to see one up close. He didn't seem at all perturbed at seeing us in the window. He just sat there and looked around the meadow, presumably keeping an eye out for mice. After maybe fifteen minutes, he eventually flew away.
In the garden, the late crop of raspberries continues to ripen. We expect it to continue until the fall frost.
Though we have had a number of rainy days, we have also had some sunshine. In the garden, the late raspberries are still producing well. We harvested the gravenstein apples and the last of the plums this week. The gravensteins didn't produce well this year. The spring weather was pretty flakey, and pollination rates varied a lot among varieties. Apparently, gravensteins lost out. The spartans are doing well, and we should get a good crop off them.
If we get a bit more warm weather, we might be able to harvest a few grapes. They are very late this year, due to the cool summer, but they are within a few days or ripening. With any luck, the birds that eat them the day befor they ripen will have left for the season by the time that happens.
Now that the yard is fenced against deer, we are starting to plant some more trees. We started this week with some hazel nut saplings. We have one of the Barcelona variety, which is intended to be the main producer, and one generic hazelnut, which is required for pollination. The generic one actually had several plants in the one pot, so we planted them separately as insurance.
Our plan is to plant four apple trees of various heritage varieties in the next few weeks.
I have been cutting up some windfall trees on a neighbouring property. The caretaker of that property called us up to say that the owners had given us permission to harvest them. They weren't fresh windfalls, but they have been up off the ground, and are in fairly good shape. Though the woodshed is full with a two-year supply, more wood is always a good thing, especially when it is free.
Wendy and I are trying something new this year. The community choir has started up again, and we have joined it. We were quite impressed with the choral concert they put on this summer, and are expecting it to be a lot of fun. The choir is being led by one of the teachers at the Denman school, who is an experienced music teacher. I don't think there is any expectation of doing a concert, but who knows, we may end up doing one.
Wendy sings alto, and I am in the tenor section. I think my voice is a bit below the tenor range - some of the parts are a bit high for me, and I keep unintentionally dropping down an octave and singing with the basses - but there is a shortage of tenors, so I'll work with it.
Denman Island's cable ferry saga has made the big time. Today, the Globe and Mail had a feature story on it on the front page of their website. There is nothing there that we idn't already know. The news aspect of the story is presumably that they have put out the request for expressions of interest. I don't think BC Ferries is seriously expecting to receive any bids on it. Behind the scenes, they are starting to work on their own proposal for the service.
The weather this week has been cool, but it turned clear and sunny towards the end of the week. We could call it Indian Summer, I suppose, except that the official definition requires that there must have been a killing frost first. At least one location on the island has recorded below freezing temperatures, but not a killing frost yet. At our house, the lowest temperature so far was +4°C.
One reason that our temperatures stay warmer than other locations is because of the insulating effect of all the tall trees. They not only keep our overnight lows warm, but some of them shaded the house and garden, and were starting to pose a threat to the house in storms. We decided that it was time to cut back a few of them.
We hired an arborist this week and had six large trees near the house and garden topped, one in the cat shelter, four between the house and cottage, and one beside the garden. The crew worked all day on them, and did an expert job of keeping the pieces from falling on anything valuable. They left enough trunk that the trees will regenerate quickly. Maples, in particular, are notoriously difficult to kill, and we expect to have to repeat the operation in a few years.
For now, the change in lighting has been dramatic. We are now getting sunlight in the house at mid-day, where previously we didn't. The garden, too, will benefit from the increased light.
We also have rather a lot of firewood and slash to clean up in the next couple of weeks. Since the woodshed is full, we will just stack the firewood bucked but unsplit until there is room for it. The slash will be piled where it will be useful as berms to make privacy screens near the road.
A major beneficial side effect of the pruning has been to open up the sky for my astronomical observations. With the clear evening skies this week, I was able to enjoy a significantly larger area of sky than before.
On Saturday, we hiked up to the north end of the island (well, we drove part of the way and walked the rest) for the opening of Morning Beach Park. It is a site where, for years, people used to access the beach below a steep cliff by scrambling down the cliff holding on to fixed ropes.
With that area now being developed, the site was donated to the Regional District as a park, with the understanding that the beach access would be preserved. Using Regional District funding and local volunteer labour, the rope trail has been replaced by a nice new staircase.
The park is well-signed, with hand-painted signs made by a local craftsman. We presume that the "unstable bank" sign is not a reference to the financial crisis in the U.S.A..
In deference to the history of the old rope trail, the local politicians and dignitaries cut a rope rather than a ribbon to open the new park.
This afternoon, Wendy and I attended the first concert of the new Concerts Denman series. Once again, it looks to be a superb season, and we have purchased season tickets.
Today's concert featured cellist Helena Jung and pianist Sean Mooney. The program included works by Beethoven, Jean Franšais Rondino, and Debussy in the first half. The second half added a bassist and a drummer, and consisted of a suite for cello and jazz trio by Claude Boling. The Debussy didn't do anything for me, but I liked the Beethoven and especially the Boling jazz piece.
The new Sunday afternoon scheduling for the concerts, as well as the greater emphasis on classical music seems to be going over well with the audience. Last season and again today, the concerts have played to almost full houses.
This week's main focus has been dealing with the pile of wood and brush left from the tree pruning that we had done last week. We are stacking the bucked, unsplit wood next to the woodshed, which is currently full. The limbs are piled in a rather large mountain. I am gradually cutting my way through them, bucking up the ones that are large enough to use for firewood. Fortunately, the pile is close enough to the house that I can use the electric chainsaw on them. It weighs about half as much as the gas-powered one, making it very useful for this kind of work, and much easier on the back. Wendy is using what remains of the branches to fill gaps in the privacy screen on the front fence. Anything left over will be disposed of in the forest.
Today, I went down to the beach and collected several buckets of seaweed to spread on the heavy feeders in the garden. Both the rhubarb and the asparagus will benefit from it. They are now happily tucked in for the winter.
The weather continues to be mostly mild. We have had some sunny days, which bring out the October colours. Fall colours here are more subdued than in many other parts of the country, but the lighting at this time of year is spectacular.
On Friday, the weather was stormy, so we used it as our shopping day. We had lunch at the Blackfin Pub in Comox, where we felt like we were stormwatching, looking out over the waves crashing in the harbour.
When we have had inclement weather and I am on the island, I have been working at the firehall, configuring a new software package. It will keep track of personnel, equipment, and training, and comes highly recommended by other fire departments in the area. It will be very useful, but we have never had this level of record keeping before, and getting it all set up is a lot of work.
Denman Diary is short this week because not much happened. The weather has continued fall-ish, with a mix of cool, sunny days and cool, wet, windy days. When it has been suitable to work outdoors, we have been gradually whittling away at the big pile of tree pruning debris.
I went down to the beach again today for another load of seaweed. This time, I put it on the rose and the younger raspberry canes. One or two more loads should take care of the rest of the raspberries. That will pretty much take care of winterizing the garden.
Last Sunday evening, we had a rare clear night, made even better by the fact that there was no moonlight. I spent a couple of hours out on the driveway with the telescope looking at various celestial objects. Jupiter is looking good in the evening sky these days. The next clear night, I am going to do some more astrophotography. I want to get a really good photo of the Andromeda galaxy, which might require an hour or longer exposure.
When the weather has been unsuitable for outdoor work, I am still working on the Fire Department's software. Learning how to use the new software is a major undertaking, and there is considerable data that has to be loaded. At the same time that I am doing that, I am working on designing a long-term training program. While the training we receive is of top quality, we have never had a long-range program to organize it. Having such a plan will make it easier for future training officers and instructors to ensure that no one misses any critical training, and that everyone is up to date on their various certifications.
Basic rule for Denman Diary: when you run out of material, insert a kitty picture. Note how Owen has not only picked the most contrasting object to shed his fur on, but he has left a nice line of footprints across the bed.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 20-May-2013