St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
The major event on Denman Island this week was the 30th annual Christmas Craft Fair. The fair is considered one of the best craft fairs in the Vancouver Island area and draws tourists from all over the big island. The craft fair weekend is one of the busiest weekends for the ferry. Parking downtown is at a premium, and the sensible tourists park on the other side and walk onto the ferry. There is a shuttle bus on the Denman side to pick people up from the ferry and take them up the hill.
The Craft Fair completely fills both the halls downtown. There are 85 booths, and all entries are selected by jury, so the quality of the crafts is consistently high.
Wendy and I spent a few hours admiring all the crafts. There are some extremely talented potters on Denman, and we just couldn't resist coming away with a couple of mugs. Wendy bought some purple crocheted wrist warmers.
The weather continues to be cool but generally pleasant. There were no big storms this week, and even some sunshine. We have been continueing to work in the garden. The raspberries have now been fed with seaweed, and all the veggie beds covered with straw. Wendy has been weaving some of the branches from our earlier tree pruning into the deer fence along the road to make a privacy screen.
We want to plant some more apple trees in the next week or two.
On sunny December days, Denman often looks its bucolic best. This old wagon has seen better days, but is decorated with a Christmas wreath in the driver's seat. The rooster "guarding" it is quite dead and stuffed, but makes a nice addition to the scene.
Our climbing rose has a tradition of having one last blossom in December. This year is no exception.
The weather has been uncommonly dry and sunny for this time of year. Most of the moisture we have had this week has been in the form of dew or frost. Occasionally, the dew and the sunlight combine to form seasonally-appropriate natural decorations.
Our activities this week have also been seasonally appropriate. On Thursday, the Community Choir backed up the elementary school kids for their Christmas concert. The younger kids sang a "What a Wonderful World", terribly off-key, but totally cute, of course. This was followed by the choir singing a couple of songs, and then the premier screening of a great video that the kids made to promote the school.
The video is part of the school's year-long promotional campaign. The school is in trouble, with only 37 students, and is in danger of being closed in the next couple of years. The consequences of school closure for the demographics of the island would be severe. In order to attract children that are curently home-schooled or sent to private schools off-island, not to mention prospective immigrants with school-age children, they have engaged in a campaign to improve the school and its reputation. The video is part of that. It is supposed to be on You-Tube. Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to find it there, or I would link to it.
The video is a "lip-dub", in which the kids lip-sync to the sound track of well known songs, in this case, the Beatles' "Strawberry Fields" and "Help". It was very well done.
The second half of the concert consisted of a play written and performed by the older kids. The plot was a bit hard to follow - something about Rudolph the Reindeer being kidnapped, but was a lot of fun to watch. Finally, the kids' band and the choir joined to perform the rock 'n' roll version of "Joy to the World". If you look carefully in the picture, you will see Wendy and me in the choir.
The community hall was packed to standing room only for the concert.
On Saturday, I was at a one-day course put on at the Comox Fire Department on fire attack ventilation. It was an interesting course, and eight members of the Denman department attended. However, we skipped out early and missed the demonstration portion of it in order that we could catch the ferry home in time for our own department's annual awards dinner.
When we get all the firefighters, the auxilliary members, the island doctors, and all their respective spouses together in one room, we fill the smaller hall. We had a great meal, and enjoyed the awards, some serious and some not. I didn't get any awards this year, but I was officially recognized for having set up the department's database software and organized the training schedule.
In keeping with the rule that, if I run out of photos for the week, the space must be filled with cat photos, here is Owen sleeping comfortably on the back of the chesterfield.
On Wednesday, Wendy participated in the annual Christmas Bird Count. (I had to work, unfortunately.) The Christmas Bird Count has been held for the past 112 years in communities all over North America to provide a consistent basis for assessing bird populations. Because of the consistency, the results are extremely valuable in determining whether there are significant changes occurring in bird populations.
Wendy was teamed with Andrew, one of Denman's top biologists, and assigned the north end of the island. The territory was unfairly large and varied, so they had to pick and choose which parts they would survey. One of the areas they looked at was the beach on the north-east shore of Denman, newly made accessible by a staircase down the cliff. They walked around to the north tip of the island, which is a known gathering spot for all types of shore birds and waterfowl.
Wendy was doing the recording, while Andrew did the spotting and identifying. She tells me that there were indeed birds there. Naturally, it rained. It is traditional.
On Friday night, we walked downtown (wearing our reflective traffic vests, and carrying flashlights) to participate in "Moonlight Madness", the one night a year that Denman businesses are open late. We stopped in at a dozen businesses, mostly to chat and hang out. There didn't seem to be a lot of actual business being transacted, but there were a lot of people out, and everyone was in a good mood.
The editor of the Grapevine, our local weekly newspaper, was celebrating the 1000th edition with copies of all the back issues on display. It was fun to flip through them and see how much has changed, and how much hasn't. I read in one old issue about a BC Ferries customer appreciation day. Whoa! Times really have changed!
Saturday was a crazy day, with three Fire Department callouts in 15 hours. As far as anyone can remember, that is a Department record. As the first officer to get to the hall, I was the incident commander for all of them. Two were First Responder incidents, including one in which we had to perform an automobile extrication (the Department's first in many years). The other one was an unattended campfire, which we extinguished.
Two of the incidents were back to back. Wendy and I were in the Kaffee Klatsch Bistro having lattés when my pager went off. I grabbed my cookie, left the latté, and caught a ride with the Fire Chief, whose business office is next door, to the hall. When that incident was over, I got home just in time for lunch. I was three bites into my sandwich when the pager went off again. Someone somewhere didn't want me to finish any meal that day!
In between all the excitement Saturday, Wendy and I attended a fundraising event that was raising money to replace nesting boxes for purple martins. The birds live at Buckley Bay, across Baynes Sound on Vancouver Island. The old nesting boxes were ripped out by BC Ferries in connection with some dock work they were doing. The company is replacing the pilings, but new nesting boxes have to be built and installed.
To raise the funds, one of the island's most talented and busiest individuals, Peter Karsten, was selling some of his paintings, sketches and carvings of birds. Peter is the former director of the Calgary Zoo, as well as being an accomplished artist. He also breeds endangered pekin robins, and his aviary was open for guided tours. Naturally, we couldn't resist buying one of his paintings.
Today, we went for a walk to the beach, because it was a particularly nice day. We watched as a seagull picked up a shell and repeatedly dropped it onto rocks to break it open. I managed to catch one of the drops.
This evening, we attended the annual community Christmas dinner. This dinner is a community event intended to bring everyone together. It is entirely free, being supported by volunteers and donation. It is probably the biggest single event on the island, certainly the biggest event whose attendance is not swollen by tourists. They were expecting about 500 people, nearly half the island's population. The event fills the entire Community Hall building, both the main auditorium and the back hall.
Dinner is served nominally in two sittings, but in effect continuously from 5:00 to 7:00. The 5:00 sitting is for adults, while the 6:00 sitting is for families with children. Apparently at 7:00 a fat fellow in a red suit shows up. We didn't stay for that.
Merry Christmas! Well, happy Boxing Day, anyway. I would normally have written this last night, but it was a rare clear, moonless night, too rare an opportunity to pass up. I spent the evening stargazing instead of diary-writing. (If you are interested in my efforts, check here.)
I have been working on a couple of projects around the house. Last week, I finished the rustic railing for the basement stairwell. This week, I have been building an insulated wellhead cover.
For some inexplicable reason, the head of our drilled well is above ground. Typically, the water pipe in a well leaves the casing several feet below the ground level, for frost protection. Ours is a foot above ground. The wellhead was protected by some old tarps and fiberglass insulation, but they are starting to deteriorate with age. The new cover will be a small, low shed, with a hinged, detatchable roof for maintenance. The walls will be insulated and mouse-proofed. I have it framed, and will be applying the siding soon.
The weather this week has been eerily pleasant. The lack of rainfall is worrying. Still, it makes for nice walking weather. Here is a view of the Denman Golf Course on Dec 23rd. As you can see, some of the natural hazards do double-duty as lawn maintenance workers.
On Christmas Day, we went for a walk to Cable Beach, on the east side of Denman Island. It is a 45-minute walk each way, through farmland, across the middle of the island. We enjoyed the sunshine there, with a view across to Hornby and Texada Islands.
The waters around Denman are noted for the winter waterfowl. There were several groups of scoters and buffleheads (types of ducks) out on the water, as well as numerous other birds we didn't identify.
As we walked along the beach, we came across some friends setting up a beach fire. It is their version of a Christmas open house. They made the fire and brought lawn chairs and treats for anyone walking along the beach.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 6-May-2013