St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
This week's weather has been a bit of everything: sun, rain, even snow. Saturday evening, it started snowing and it continued into the night. By morning, we woke up to a cruel April Fools joke: snow on the ground. It was just a dusting, fortunately, but still not nice.
In spite of the weather, the garden continues to wake up. I have half the strawberry patch weeded, and will finish it when we get some more nice weather.
I conpleted the dismantling of the old pergola. The previous owner didn't use ordinary nails or bolts to hold it together. He used huge spiral spikes, which are next to impossible to remove. I ended up having to cut them off with a grinder. The split cedar logs, originally part of a split rail fence and repurposed to become the pergola, have now once again been repurposed to line the driveway and the path to the cottage.
Our first daffodil opened this week. We have a lot more getting ready to open the next time we have a stretch of warm weather. Several tulips are now above ground. With the yard deer-proofed, we are getting quite a nice succession of spring flowers: snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils and tulips. We will probably plant a few more bulbs this fall.
Wendy has been working on filling the woodshed. She has finished filling one bay, and we now have to wait until we empty the next bay before it can be filled. In order to properly age the wood, we try to burn it in the order it was stacked. That means never stacking new wood in front of old wood. The multiple-bay woodshed makes that possible.
I had to do some repairs on the rainwater system this week. A brass ball valve that I installed last year had cracked from frost. The valve in question is the main outlet valve for one of the storage tanks. It is the one valve in the system that cannot be drained in the fall when I winterize the system. I had assumed that a brass valve would be sturdier than the plastic one it replaced, but it seems to have been more brittle. I replaced it with a gate valve that is less susceptible to frost than a ball valve.
Of course, doing that work meant that I had had to dump 1000 gallons of water from the tank. However, this morning it is raining hard, and the tank is well on its way to being refilled.
On Thursday afternoon, while I was doing the plumbing work, I thought I heard the distinctive whirring sound of a hummingbird up on the deck above me. Wendy has had the feeders out for a week, anticipating their arrival. I wasn't able to see the bird at the time, but on Friday we saw him on the feeder. We know we have at least two hummers, as we have seen two together. They were probably as disgusted with the snow Saturday night as we were.
Friday was Wendy's birthday, which we celebrated with a suitably decadent cake.
On Saturday afternoon, we attended the final concert in the Concerts Denman season. (There was supposed to be one more but it has been cancelled.) This concert featured Russians Victor Kuleshov on violin and Eugene Skovorodnikov on piano, playing a program of Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Paganini and Kreisler. It was an amazing performance, reminding us how lucky we are to live in such an artistic community.
On Sunday evening (the reason this diary is late this week), we attended a talent show put on as a fundraiser for GLAD - Grannies Linking Africa and Denman, a group associated with the Stephen Lewis Foundation's Grannies project that helps African grandmothers who are raising their grandchildren who have been orphaned by AIDS. Community talent shows are a hoot, and we had a great time. Some of the talents were amazingly good, and some were hilariously bad, but it made for a good show. It was very well attended, too, suggesting a successful fundraiser.
As you can see in the various pictures this week, all the critters are relaxed. Larkin likes to hang out near Owen. He doesn't mind, but really can't figure out why this big hound is interested in him, or what "Let's play" means.
The weather is becoming more springlike all the time. There have been isolated daffodils in various spots around the island for a couple of weeks, but the majority are now starting to catch up. Our first daffodils are open, and there are lots more where they came from.
In the garden, the rhubarb and garlic looking good. I have finished weeding them and the strawberries, and they are ready for more mulch. Very soon, we should be planting some vegetables. We also have grass that needs mowing! Wendy has finished stacking the firewood.
We spend a fair amount of time walking Larkin, the greyhound. She gets an hour's walk every day. She likes variety, so, rather than doing the same walk every day, we drive out to Chickadee Lake or the North Lands for our walks. We have toroughly explored most of that area of Denman Island. In fact, Larkin now assosicates my picking up my handheld GPS unit with going for a walk. Her favourite things are to explore new trails or to investigate every animal trail that she encounters.
She also likes to hang out with her pal, Owen the cat. Owen isn't crazy about the idea, but puts up with it as long as he doesn't have to play.
We have at least two hummingbirds visiting our feeders regularly. Wendy has seen two on a feeder at the same time. I managed to catch this one quite by chance.
Our cultural event for this week was the "Tsk Tsk Revue", a burlesque show based on Lasqueti Island. Lasqueti is the epitome of a Gulf Island. With no electricity and a population of only 420 people, it has a culture that is even more unique than Denman's.
The "Tsk Tsk" show has been a regular feature there for a number of years, a way for the residents to cope with "cabin fever", or being "bushed" as it is known locally. This year, they felt they had enough material to take the show on the road.
We had dinner at the hall before the show and had a chance to mingle with the cast, who were also having their dinner. All were in costume for dinner, and many were in character, too.
The show itself was a lot of fun, and played to a full hall. I wanted to take pictures, but a sign at the door warned that photography was not permitted, and that what happens at the "Tsk Tsk Revue" stays there. I guess that means that I can't tell you about it, either.
This week has been quite spring-like. Temperatures have warmed up to seasonal values, and there has been quite a bit of sunshine. More daffodils are flowering all the time, and there are tulips with buds on them.
In all the marshes, the skunk cabbages, also known as swamp lanterns, are flowering.
Walking through downtown Denman earlier this week, we noticed this typical Denman spring scene: a resident setting out a cooler of eggs for sale. Fresh eggs are typically sold this way. In the cooler, there will be a cash box in which to put your money, on the honour system.
The pink flowering trees in the background are among the most spectacular in the area. They are outside the seniors' hall.
The major event this week was the Firefighters' Auction. This is usually a biennial event, in which residents donate
junk valuable items, which are then auctioned off. Less valuable items are sold in flea market style, but the majority are sold by a professional auctioneer. It is not unusual for some items to look very familiar, as purchasers from previous years re-donate the same items.
Items for the auction are collected for a month beforehand. On Saturday, the firefighters spent all day transporting them to the hall, separating them by saleability, arranging them, and allocating lot numbers. Today, the auction proper ran from 10 until 3.
I managed to resist the temptation to buy any of the
junk valuable items, as did Wendy, who dropped in for a short time in the morning.
Once the auction was over, the firefighters helped purchasers get their items home. Large items, such as a shufflboard table, a piano, console stereos from the 1960s, and even a billiard table were all taken to their new homes by truck.
While firefighters are reknowned for our physical fitness, some of the purchasers had unrealistic expections about our capabilities. One exceptionally large and heavy item had to be left on its new owner's driveway when we realized that it would be impossible to lift it to its new attic location and live to tell the tale.
However, by supper time, the hall was cleared and the money was being counted.
All of a sudden, it feels like spring. The temperatures are starting to get up into the mid teens. Though we could do with more sunshine, the profusion of daffodils definitely contributes to the feeling. A couple of days of sun would also get the tulips to flower. I planted quite a lot of them last fall, it being the first fall with the deer fence up. There are a lot of big fat buds just waiting to pop.
My main activity this week has been puttering in the garden. I have most of the beds weeded. I planted carrots, lettuce, spinach and mixed greens. It may be a bit soon for some of those, but I only planted a small quantity of each. If they germinate, they might have a head start on the season. If not, I'll be planting more later anyway.
The asparagus is up, a full two weeks earlier than last year. More importantly, the spears are fat and are coming up in multiples. That is good news. If we harvest any this year, it will be a small harvest, but it is looking good at this point.
The rhubarb is getting set to take over the world. It definitely likes to be fed in the fall. It is looking very red and happy. There could be some rhubarb desserts in the near future.
Today, I clipped the winter vegetation off the electric fence, making it operational for the season. That is important in order to keep raccoons out of the garden, now that we have crops growing.
Work has started on the new music room. We had a load of lumber delivered last week. This week, the sill platess were installed on the foundation. We are expecting the concrete floor to be poured soon. The lumber is already on site, so once the floor is in, it should start taking shape soon.
And in other news, I have completed our income tax returns for another year.
Someone once said that Canada's official birthday should be April 30th, so that everyone could say, as they filed their Income Tax return, "Many happy returns!" I filed our tax returns with several days to spare.
In the garden, I have finished re-weeding and mulching the strawberries. It is amazing how big the weeds were able to grow in the couple of weeks since I last weeded them. The straw mulch should slow them down now. The strawberries have got a good head start on the weeds now, and are starting to show flower buds. Along the hiking trails, the wild strawberries have been flowering for several days already. We had better get a move on and finish the remaining berries from last year that are still in the freezer.
Work is proceeding well on the music room. Three of the walls went up last week. Weather permitting, we expect the fourth wall to go up and the roof to take shape this week.
A lot of our time is spent walking Larkin the greyhound. She goes for an least an hour's walk every day. Including time travelling to and from the trailheads, that eats up a couple of hours a day. It also means that we are in good shape, as she walks at an average speed of 6 km/h.
This weekend, the potters in the area are firing the big Anagama kiln. The kiln is built on a hillside, and is about 30 feet long. A firing takes several days, and about a dozen cords of wood, and happens only once or twice a year. It is very much a community effort, as the fire has to be tended 24 hours a day for the entire firing. All the potters take shifts tending it.
This year, we visited the kiln after dark. The flames are most inpressive. About every five minutes, the crew loads another dozen logs into the mouth of the kiln. It runs at about 2000 to 2700 degrees Celsius. It is hot enough that water thrown into the opening dissociates into hydrogen and oxygen, which then explode. The fourth photo shows the hydrogen explosion blowing back out the kiln opening.
Pottery fired in the Anagama kiln is glazed by contact with the ash in the wood smoke. Because of the vagaries of the swirling smoke in the kiln, the potters never know until the end of the firing how their works will turn out.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 20-May-2013