St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
We have decided to make a dramatic change in the appearance of our property. Larkin, the greyhound, needs space to run and play. Her favourite thing is to sprint flat out in circles. However, she was decidedly limited in the availability of circles for her to run around.
So, we decided to mow the meadow. Up until last year, it had remained fairly constant, growing up to tall grass and daisies in the spring and summer, and dying back to thatch in the fall and winter. However, the moment we fenced the yard to keep the deer out, it started to revert to forest. This spring, in the portion behind the cottage, you literally could not take a step without crushing several young fir, cedar or hemlock seedlings. And they were all showing lush new growth this spring. Within a matter of months, our meadow would be unrecognizable, and the forest succession cycle would be well under way.
A mown lawn is rather un-Denman-y. However, mowing at least once a year was clearly going to be a necessity, and mowing more frequently was desirable for the benefit of the hound.
So, we borrowed a brush-cutter, and I spend a couple of days getting the trees and tall grass under control. The cutter made short work of everything, mowing down small trees, shrubs and just about everything else with ease. Unfortunately, there were some murine and ophidian casualties. For some reason, Wendy wasn't too upset about the latter.
After a day of raking the cuttings, I got to try out my new toy: a riding mower. You can't really say you have an acreage until you have one. It is a fine little machine and did a good job of evening up what the brush cutter left. It even has a drink holder for the operator's favourite refreshing beverage!
We are quite happy with the result. It looks startlingly civilized to have a "lawn-like object" out back. Larkin has already taken it for a trial run and likes it.
Work on the music room continues, though at a frustratingly mellow pace. The concrete floor slab was poured last week. The roof is now on, the electrical rough-in is done, and the siding is going on. Our original scheduled completion date of May 31st has gone zooming by without slowing down.
I am planning to watch the Transit of Venus on Tuesday. This is the last opportunity to see this phenomenon in our lifetimes: the next one isn't until 2115. I ordered my solar filter months ago, and have practiced using it. I have booked the day off work. Now, all I need is a decent weather forecast. Oh, well...
The weather has been cool and cloudy most of the week. The rainwater tanks, which had been down several hundred gallons due to a valve left open, are now full once again. Let's hope that we actually need them this summer!
I had to replant our vegetables this week. I think the cool damp weather caused poor germination. However, varmints caused considerable damage to the crops that did come up. Last week, I had a row of bean seedlings that were up. This week, it was down to one pathetic specimen. I am not sure if the culprit was slugs or sow bugs. It probably doesn't matter.
We are starting to like the look of the meadow as a lawn. It will never resemble a golf course fairway, but it will give Larkin a place where she can run flat out when the mood strikes her. We already did mow a couple of pathways through the meadow, which are now green and grassy. We expect that, by this time next year, the brown scalped look will be replaced by green lawn.
Our climbing rose had its first blossom of the season this week. There are a lot more on the way. It usually blooms into December, so we are looking forward to six months of flowers.
One unique event happened this week: the transit of Venus. This occurs when the planet Venus passes in front of the Sun. Because of the way the orbits line up, a transit of Venus is only visible twice every 113 years. The last one was in 2004; the next one isn't until the year 2117.
I had prepared months ago for the event by ordering a solar filter for my smaller telescope, and booking the day off work. Naturally, the forecast for the day was for clouds and rain. I was able to see the planet Venus against the disk of the Sun through thin spots in the clouds, using just my eclipse glasses. However, right up until supper time, it was looking like pictures were not going to happen. However, the Sun did eventually poke through the clouds in the evening, and I was able to get a few pictures.
The first scientifically-recorded transit of Venus was in 1769. The event was sufficiently important astronomically that the British Navy sent Capt. James Cook halfway around the world to measure it in Tahiti. Capt. Cook, of course, later went on to become one of the first European explorers of this part of the world.
Most of the exterior board-and-batten siding on the music room is now up, as well as most of the insulation inside. Progress, unfortunately, is slower than we would like. Sigh.
This week, we went to an exhibit of monster art at the Arts Centre. The artist had created monster images in various media from paint on plexiglas to aluminum to cast bronze. The effect was demented but fun.
On Saturday evening, we went out for dinner with our friends Danni and Bentley at the Kaffee Klatsch bistro. Daniel, the chef, had made sure that there was a vegan version of one of the menu items for us.
Following dinner, we went to the Seniors' Hall for the world premier of a new NFB documentary about Denmanites Bob and Velda Parson. A couple of years ago, as a retirement project, Bob build a row/sail boat, a lifelong dream of his. The documentary centres around the boat-building project, but gives a portrait of the couple, including their occupation as vegetable farmers until their retirement. The film-maker is also a Denman resident.
Greyhounds have a reputation as being sleek and graceful. As you can see, they do not always live up to that expectation.
The weather this week has been pretty much the same as the last few weeks: some sun, some rain, lots of cloud, and temperatures that fail to impress. Summer starts on Thursday. I'm waiting...
The music room has finally reached lock-up stage. The exterior is complete, and the door has been hung. Work will start this week on the interior of the music room. The drywall and the tongue and groove pine ceiling materials are on site.
I have installed gutters and downspouts to help preserve the nice new cedar finish and to collect rainwater from the roof. We intend to put several rain barrels across the back of the building to save having to lug water up the hill from the main rainwater system when we water. The music room is at a fairly high spot in the yard, so any water-lugging will be downhill. In fact, we could eventually install underground piping to move the water to its destination by gravity.
One of the plants that will benefit from our having rainwater available in that area is our climbing rose. It is in full bloom now. With regular deadheading, it will likely continue to flower until December.
Out in the jungle that surrounds us, one of the showier flowers is the foxglove. Pink and white foxgloves are blooming now. They are a favourite of hummingbirds.
With the cool weather and the abundance of plant matter available, it has been a good year so far for slugs. This one posed beside one of Wendy's moccasins. This is a banana slug, a native species that has adapted to exist peacefully in this climate. We also have black slugs, an evil imported alien species that reproduces wildly and eats everything in sight. The black slugs are not welcome in our garden.
Speaking of unwelcome visitors... After a few days of sunny weather during which Wendy hung the laundry out on the line instead of using the dryer, we had a cool wet day that made use of the dryer preferable. On starting up the dryer, there was an odd smell, like bad food cooking. We immediately stopped the dryer, turned off the breaker and unplugged it. After a while, the smell subsided.
After work that day, I opened up the back of the dryer, fearing the worst. Owen and Liesl, our two cats, both occasionally bring in mice (and sometimes other, legless creatures which shall remain nameless) from outdoors. Owen brings them in alive to use as toys. Liesl has discovered that mice are edible. We already knew that Owen had brought in a mouse, as we had seen it but not yet captured it. I was dreading finding cooked mouse in the dryer.
On opening the dryer, I found, well away from the heat, fortunately, some of the insulation shredded and turned into a nest. In the nest were three baby mice. Yes, the mouse that Owen had brought in had been pregnant! And how had mama mouse been feeding herself down in the basement?
Well, a couple of days before all this, Wendy had noticed that the kitties' food dish had been emptied overnight. The cats seldom eat a lot at one sitting, so this was unusual. We put it down to one of them having pigged out. It turns out, in hindsight, that it was mama mouse who emptied the kibble dish.
After removing the mouse nest, I still had to locate the source of the smell, which had clearly been coming from something too close to the heating element. Opening up the heating unit, I found mama mouse's pantry: about a cup and a half of kitty kibble in the heater!
With the dryer cleaned out and closed up, I blocked all the mouse-sized openings I could find in it with aluminum foil. We set three live traps for mama and a few hours later, caught her.
The cats no longer have free access to the outdoors. The cat door is kept locked, and they have to ask to be let out or in. They are inspected for contraband before being let in. It brings a whole new meaning to the word "Friskies".
The weather continues to be cloudy and "seasonal" - nothing resembling a warm spell yet. We are not getting a lot of rain in terms of total quantity, but it is still frequent and at times very heavy.
Temperatures have been too cool for decent seed germination in the garden, so our veggies are a bit threadbare. The beans that I re-planted after the slugs and sow bugs got the first planting are up and looking like they might survive, and a bit of kale is looking healthy.
Thank goodness for perennials! The strawberries are starting to produce well, though the cool wet weather has slowed them down and there is a bit of mould. If we get some warm sunny weather(!), they could go crazy. We have picked enough in the last few days for a couple of feasts of berries and fresh bread. Mmm! Although the rhubarb is mostly done now, it looks like there might be enough left for one strawberry-rhubarb pie.
The frequent rain has meant frequent mowing of the meadow. By ths time next year, it will have recovered from being shaved and will start to look lawn-like. Larkin likes it, which was the whole idea.
There is substantial progress on the music room. With a new crew working on it, the drywall and the pine ceiling went up in just a few days. I have spent a lot of time this week taping and plastering the drywall. It's not exactly a professional plastering job, but it'll do.
The other major addition is the deck in front of the building. Made from leftover yellow cedar from our main deck, it went in quickly and looks great.
On Sunday evening, we went to one of the events in this week's Sustainability Festival: a community picnic with live music. It was held on a nice patch of lawn behind the school. The entertainment was all local, and some of the performers were quite talented.
Other events in the Sustainability Festival have focused on self-sufficiency skills such as making cordage and scything.
Larkin looks cute all the time, but she is especially beautiful when she is alert, searching for the source of some forest sound, like she was on today's walk.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 20-May-2013