Hall's Harbour Observatory,   Hall's Harbour, NS

Denman Diary: 2012

21-Nov-2017, 18:54 AST 21-Nov-2017, 22:54 UTC


31-Dec-2012

Well, I have noticed that my posts have been getting thinner lately. I seem to be running out of stuff to comment on. This may be an appropriate time to end the weekly updates.

I may still post from time to time if something newsworthy happens.

Happy 2013!

23-Dec-2012

The story this week, as befits the official start of winter, is snow. As I reported last week, it started snowing last Sunday evening, and the snow is still here.

For the past week, I have been parking the car at the top of the driveway. When it is snow-covered, the driveway is impassable. As the week wore on and some of the snow melted, I tried one experimental trip down the driveway. However, I needed chains on the tires to get back out, so I have continued parking at the top until today

Just when it looked like rain was going to start clearing the snow away yesterday, the rain turned to snow again. However, it didn't stick around, and today, the total snow pack is down considerably. I am finally able to use the driveway again.

Finding places to take Larkin for a walk in this weather is a challenge. About mid-week, the snow was getting fairly crusty, and I was concerned about her cutting her pads on the ice. For a few days, we had to walk on paved roads, because the trails were unsuitable for man or beast.

Larkin doesn't seem to mind the snow, and enjoys a good run in it. It is difficult to catch her in full flight, but I got lucky with this photo.

As of about 3:00 am on Friday, the days are getting longer again. It is about time. On my work days, I have to take Larkin for her walk after I finish work. For the last few weeks, I have had to do those walks by the light of a headlamp.

'Tis the season, and all that, so a very merry Christmas to all!

16-Dec-2012

We attended a couple of interesting events this week.

The first was a concert of flamenco guitar and classical piano music, performed by Ivan Tucakov (guitar) and Oriana White (piano). The music consisted of pieces written seaparately by the two performers, and mixed in with a few classical pieces. The combination of flamenco guitar and piano worked very well. The duo was extremely "tight" - their timing was perfect, even through the complex flamenco rhythms.

This was the first event we have attended in the newly renovated main hall. The hall was set up café style, with chairs grouped around small tables, and wine and desserts were available. The name of the duo is "Vino & Forte", so, in keeping with the vino part, I sampled a glass of chocolate cranberry wine from Hornby Island. It was interesting, probably not the sort of thing to serve with dinner, but very nice in the circumstances.

There had been some doubt earlier in the day whether the musicians were going to make it to Denman Island, because the big ferries were shut down for a while due to strong winds. However, they were able to catch a later ferry and made it to the hall on time.

The other event this week was the annual community Christmas dinner. This event, which has been running annually for years, invites everyone on the island to the community hall for a full Christmas dinner. Local businesses donate the potatoes, veggies, and turkey for those so inclined. Salads, side dishes and desserts are pot-luck. No one is turned away. This is an opportunity for those less fortunate in the community to participate as equals in a social event at no cost. In two sittings, literally hundreds of meals are served.

The weather forecast for this evening called for "rain mixed with snow". It started off as rain, but there is not a lot of mixing going on. It is now snowing heavily. I moved the car up to the top of the driveway, because if this keeps up, the driveway will be impassable by morning. The anti-raptor netting over the cat shelter has already collapsed due to the weight of the snow.

Liesl's "Garfield" expression in this photo might be an editorial comment on the weather. However, I suspect it is a comment on getting her picture taken.

9-Dec-2012

The weather this week has been cloudy, cool, and showery.

We had enough rain earlier in the week to knock my weather station for a loop. Apparently water got into some of the network connections and, for a couple of days, the computer couldn't communicate with the instruments. After some investigation, tweaking the software, a bit of muttered cursing, and enough time to dry out, it is back working again.

After last week's Christmas Craft Fair, the "festive season" is well under way. We put up our Christmas lights on the music studio this year. They look quite nice there.

Our main social activity for the week was attending the annual Fire Department Christmas Dinner. The Department provides the ham, turkey and booze for those so inclined, and the rest is pot-luck. As always, the food and conversation were excellent.

After dinner, they have award presentations: serious awards for those who did particularly well, and less serious awards for those who didn't. It was a quiet year this year. Our call volume was down considerably from the last few years. That meant fewer chances for people to either shine or mess up.

The dreaded Driving Award usually has several candidates vying for notoriety. This year, they had to dig pretty deep to find even one infraction, and it wasn't even a moving violation. The best they could come up with was a member who pocketed the only set of keys for our reserve tanker truck after a practice. The missing keys were only noticed when we had a callout for a structure fire at the Old School. Fortunately, that fire only required about ten gallons of water and a couple of fire extinguishers to put out, so the third tanker was not needed. The Department now has a duplicate set of keys.

The other main event on the island was yet another ferry meeting. This time it was the government coming, ostensibly to find out what we wanted from the ferry system. It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out that higher fares, reduced service and crew layoffs are not high on our priority list. Apparently those points were duly raised, along with considerable griping about the recently announced cable ferry. But since the government's priorities have long been predetermined (namely: higher fares, reduced service and crew layoffs), one wonders whether the purpose of the meeting was anything other than window-dressing. We passed on attending this one.

2-Dec-2012

There are two stories this week: rain and the Christmas Craft Fair.

It has been raining hard all week. We are in the middle of a light "Pineapple Express" weather pattern that shows no signs of changing any time soon. The upper air flow is bringing moisture in from around Hawaii. Some days, we see a little blue sky, but most days, we get heavy rain.

The total for the week is 114 mm. That is not as heavy as we can get. In the past, during Pineapple Express events, we have had that much rain in one day. However, the steady rain adds up, and the ground is saturated in many places.

Earlier this week, Wendy and I were having coffee at the Kaffee Klatch Bistro when the water started rising all around the building and coming in the doors. Fortunately, we had finished our coffee, because the staff had to close the restaurant and star mopping the floors. They had to bring in a pump to pump out the lake that had formed around the building. It wasn't a rising river or anything, it was just an accumulation of rainwater on the surface.

Out on the trails where I walk Larkin, many out our favourite trails are flooded. In some cases, we can walk around the puddles off the trail, but some trails are completely impassable. On one trail the other day, a stream, which is dry in the summer and which has a culvert under the trail for times when it flows, was raging across the trail as a significant fast-flowing river.

Wendy and I went to the annual Christmas Craft Fair on Saturday. It is one of the biggest and best craft fairs in the Vancouver Island area, and the downtown area was clogged with visitors. Most save on ferry fairs by leaving their cars on the Vancouver Island side and walking onto the ferry. The craft fair is a short, though steep, walk up from the ferry.

The fair isn't for anyone who suffers from claustrophobia. The aisles aren't quite wide enough for the crowds that show up. They need the aisles to be four people wide, so that they can have people standing in front of the booths on both sides and still have room for people walking by in both directions. Unfortunately, the aisles are only three people wide.

Still, the squeezing is worth it, as the crafts are all of top quality and worth a look. We were good this year and didn't buy anything.

26-Nov-2012

With some clear weather this week, we have had some overnight ground frosts. I actually had to dig out the scraper for the car windshield, and I have started covering the windshield at night to prevent frost (and scraping). While scraping frost is not a big deal, I like to keep the windshield frost-free in case of a Fire Department callout. I would hate to have our first-rate response time jeopardized by having to scrape.

Some open areas where I walk Larkin have obviously been getting colder than our place overnight. This puddle had ice on it when we passed it the other day.

Larkin has a good wardrobe for cooler weather. We now put a winter coat on her when we go out. We also have long underwear that we can put on her under the coat in case of a severe cold snap.

This time of year, the north end of the island, where we usually walk Larkin, is crawling with hunters. The hunting season here lasts from October to December. I made a bright orange visibility sash for her to wear over her coat to prevent tragic accidents. I wear a matching orange toque for the same reason.

We don't actually come across too many hunters, because it is a large area, and the odds of running into anyone are small. However, tire tracks on the trails give ample evidence of their presence.

It is hard to get a good portrait of Larkin when we are on a walk. However, on one of the sunny days this week, I took the camera and was able to snap this picture while she was on full alert, watching a squirrel.

The big news this week was that BC Ferries has decided to proceed with the proposed cable ferry. What it will mean for ferry service on the island remains to be seen. It will be the world's longest cable ferry, and therefore somewhat experimental, though the technology is well tested. I suspect that service cuts unrelated to the cable ferry operation will have a larger effect on the community.

19-Nov-2012

I am going to borrow a guote from fellow Denman blogger Harold Birkeland. "I'm sure that many significant and important things have happened this week on Denman Island but I'm not aware of them." That about sums up this week.

12-Nov-2012

After a bit of a warm-ish spell last week, the temperature has dropped to the cool side of normal. It has been mostly wet, but with a few sunny days now and then.

Some time in the last two weeks, the water level in the well rose to its normal full winter level of 26 metres. Unfortunately, I had left the compressor that supplies air for the measuring system set at a summer level, so it didn't have enough pressure to measure the increase. I got suspicious when the recorded level stayed exceptionally steady for several days. After turning up the pressure to a winter level, the system is now recording accurately again.

Pretty much all the leaves are gone from the maple trees. The view across to the Beaufort Mountains, when there is a view, shows a dusting of snow on the tops.

Wendy noticed that a new boulder has fallen off the cliff beside the Big Hill. The cliff is composed of highly fractured, overhanging sandstone. Every so often, frost widens a crack in the rock enough to break a boulder loose. This one didn't make it onto the road, fortunately, but it would have squashed anyone who happened to be in its path if it had. One of these days, that's going to be a problem.

On one of the nicer days this week, I planted next year's garlic. We still have some kale and beets alive in the garden for winter veggies. We are getting ground frosts, but so far, the air temperature at my "official" weather station has not yet fallen below zero.

On Sunday morning, Wendy and I attended the annual Remembrance Day ceremony at the Seniors' Hall. As usual, it was well-attended. A busload of Scouts unexpectedly came over from Courtenay to attend as well. The walls of the hall were decorated by artwork from the Elementary School.

The ceremony was marred by the singing of Buffy Sainte Marie's song "The Universal Soldier". While it was sung well, I can't imagine a more inappropriate song to sing in front of respected veterans on the one day a year set aside to honour them.

4-Nov-2012

The most significant event of this week was that Wendy returned from her two-week visit to her parents in Nova Scotia. Her flight home turned out to be a bit of an adventure.

We were watching the progress of Hurricane Sandy as it approached the East Coast of the US. With its enormous size, it was forecast to start affecting the Toronto area before the centre had even made landfall. Looking at all the predictions on Sunday night, it looked like Wendy would safely get through Toronto on Monday several hours before conditions started to deteriorate.

So, on Monday morning, my heart sank when I got up and checked the status of her flight from Halifax to Toronto: delayed by an hour and a half. That meant, of course, that she would miss her connection in Toronto. If she got stuck there just as the storm was moving in, it was likely to be for more than one night. I would not want to be stuck in Toronto during a hurricane. I spent a frantic couple of hours checking flight schedules for alternative connections that would get her into Comox the same day.

Half an hour or so after her delayed flight would have arrived in Toronto, I was able to find out from West Jet that they had managed to get her onto a later flight through Winnipeg and Calgary, in time to make her connecting flight to Comox. Yay! She arrived home jetlagged, but on time.

Larkin and Liesl were both as happy to have her home as I was.

The weather this week has been seasonal: cloudy and rainy, but fairly mild.

I drained the garden irrigation system in preparation for winter, and drew down the rainwater storage tanks to safe freezing levels. Though the tanks are unlikely to freeze solid, we could, in a cold snap, get some ice forming in them. I like to leave some expansion room at the top to accomodate the expansion without damage. In the spring, after the possibility of a really cold snap is past, I will top them up in preparation for next year's dry season.

Surprisingly, we are still picking raspberries. Production slows down this time of year, of course, but the canes keep producing until there is a frost. This is not the first time we have picked raspberries in November.

28-Oct-2012

The weather has continued to be cool and moderately rainy this week.

Walking Larkin has meant picking trails that are wide enough that we aren't brushing against wet underbrush, as well as choosing times carefully to fit in between the showers. For the most part, it has worked.

I made a bright orange visibility sash for her to wear on our walks, now that it is hunting season. With her brindle colour and markings, Larkin is just too unconspicuous. There are lots of fresh tire tracks on the wide trails that we are walking on these days, indicating hunters in the area. You just hope they know that deer don't wear orange.

This week's cultural event was the grand re-opening of the Community Hall. Judging from the smell in the hall, they just barely got the floor finished in time, but on time it was, and on budget. The hall is 100 years old this year. As the foundation was in bad shape, it was deemed an appropriate occasion to bring the building up to date. The work, which has gone on for the last six months or so, has included excavating out the old foundation, pouring a new concrete foundation, shoring up the load-bearing structures, and insulation. Of all the changes, the latter of this list will probably be the most appreciated!

As all the subterranean work required heavy machinery to get under the building, the old floor had to be removed. So, in addition to the other renos, we have a brand new hardwood floor. The insulation work required the walls to be opened up, so there is new panelling on the walls, as well as new house lights. The final effect is a little less funky than the old hall, but it is ready for its next 100 years, with the same great accoustics it has enjoyed in the past.

The really big news for this coming week is that Wendy returns home from Nova Scotia tomorrow. She was a little worried about Hurricane Sandy coming ashore ans spoiling her travel arrangements, but it looks like she'll be through Toronto ahead of the worst of the weather. I will be very glad to have her home!

21-Oct-2012

As of this week, our rainwater tanks are full, ready for next summer. Almost full, anyway. I deliberately don't top them up all the way until winter is over, in order to leave expansion room in case of freezing. As of this week, they are all over that level. That is pretty remarkable: we irrigate the garden through a couple of months of almost total drought, and then, in one week, we recoup all that water. Rainwater storage is the only way to go.

While our precipitation fell as rain, I noticed a light dusting of snow on the tops of the Beaufort Range one morning this week.

I harvested a bucket of apples this week. The gravensteins were all finished a couple of weeks ago, but the spartans ripen later. They are a very hardy apple, and many of the windfalls from the stormy weather were in good shape.

The raspberries are still producing, though their production is slowing down with the cooler weather.

Wendy is still in Nova Scotia. Two weeks is a long time!

It's just Larkin and me for another week. Liesl is here too, but she tries to ignore me as much as possible. I am useful to provide food and water, and to open the cat door when she knocks to come in, but otherwise I might as well not be here.

One of my projects this week has been to set up lighting for Larkin's "pee-pen". We have an area of the yard near the front door fenced in where we can let Larkin out late at night for the necessities, without her wandering off into the darkness. However, the existing outdoor lighting didn't reach it very well, and it was hard to keep an eye on her. I have now rigged up a floodlight for the area, switchable from indoors.

The Fire Department, in an ongoing effort to improve fire protection in all areas of Denman Island, has installed a pair of water storage tanks at the Bill Mee boat launch park at the south end of the island. This will allow us to access five truckloads of water near the south end before we have to seek water from farther afield. Having a lot of water quickly available early in a firefighting operation greatly improves our chances of saving a building. There are plans for similar installations in other parts of the island.

14-Oct-2012

The main events this week are that Wendy flew to Nova Scotia to visit her parents, and that the drought is over.

Wendy goes down east every year about this time to visit her parents. She will be gone for just over two weeks. She left me a freezer full of soups and other meals, so I may not even have to cook while she is gone. She's only been gone a couple of days and I miss her already.

The drought ended with a vengeance last night, with a deluge. The rainfall total for yesterday and today was almost 60 mm, more than two inches. For more than four hours this morning, it was coming down at a rate of 6 mm or more per hour. That is as much rain in 45 minutes as we had in the preceding 80 days.

Those 80 days constitude a new record: the longest dry spell on record, where "dry" means no more than 2 mm on any one day. The old record was 68 days, back in 1915, and that dry spell had more precipitation than our new record.

The rainwater system collected 2100 gallons of water in this one event. That is more than halfway to replenishing the water we used over the last two and a half months.

The level in our well rose 3 metres during the rainstorm. It is going back down, now that the rain has stopped.

Here are a couple of photographs of Larkin in her less dignified moments.

7-Oct-2012

This was a sad week. Owen's condition was gradually getting worse, but at a rate that portended a long, drawn-out decline. The vet was stumped for a diagnosis, and the best guess, a brain tumour, would be incurable. So, with heavy hearts, we had him put to sleep.

In his memory, here is a picture of Owen in happier times.

The drought continues. Although most of the garden is finished, I am continuing to water the winter greens and the raspberries. We still have 1200 gallons of stored rainwater left. We are very glad of it, because without our rainwater storage, we'd have nothing.

In the news today, they are worried that the Cowichan River will dry up completely. That is not all Mother Nature's doing - there appear to have been some shenanigans about water licenses and management policies. Still, it indicates a remarkably dry summer.

We are harvesting apples and plums. Both are doing reasonably well in spite of the drought. And the raspberries continue.

The other day, I went down to the garden to turn on the water, and saw movement in the fruit trees. It's not unusual for there to be birds in the trees, but the size of the movement indicated something considerably larger than a robin. I went down to the apple trees and discovered two raccoons up in them. Stealing apples and plums, by the looks of things.

After I chased them off, I checked the fence to see how they were getting in. There's nothing wrong with the fence: they were just climbing through the squares in the deer fence. Normally this route is protected by the electric fence. However, to prevent Larking from getting shocks, we have only been running the electric fence at night. Obviously that is not sufficient, since the banditos were out and about in broad daylight. From now on, we will be keeping the electric fence turned on all the time, except when Larkin is actually outside.

Another harvest that is going on right now is the mountain ash berries. We don't pick them, but the birds do. They have almost stripped the trees entirely of berries.

We have been cutting and splitting more firewood. The woodshed is full, so this effort was more in the way of fall yard cleanup, rather than stockpiling. Still, it will be put to good use in a couple of years from now.

We watched an excellent movie this week at the community hall. It was a French film, with the linguistically bizarre title of "The Intouchables". Title aside, it was a pleasant blend of comedy and character, with excellent acting.

30-Sep-2012

This week, the weather continued mild and dry. Although we aren't anywhere close to a record for the number of consecutuve rainless days, thanks to the odd sprinkle during the summer, it's been dry enough that some kind of record seemed in order. Since we have had almost no rain since July, I thought I'd quantify "almost none" and see what I could come up with in the record books.

I arbitrarily defined "almost none" as being less than 2 mm of rain in any one day. I chose that amount since none of our sprinkles have been more than 2 mm. The longest period on record with almost no rain, by that definition, was 68 days, back in 1915. This week, as we closed in on the 68 day record, Friday's forecast was calling for rain. We did get some, and it seemed to be moderately heavy in places on the island. But, at my weather station, the total rainfall for Friday was 1.75 mm, barely enough to keep the dust down. The record was tied and then broken. We are now standing at 70 days with almost no rain, and counting.

I have been working on behalf of the Fire Department with the local Parks and Trails Committees and with the Denman Conservancy Association to map the many kilometres of hikable trails on the island and to establish standard names for them. This week, Derek Moore, our BC Parks coordinator, came to visit Denman and to see for himself the trails in the new soon-to-be-park lands. Representatives from all the committees and groups accompanied him to explain the various trails and points of interest. The interim maps produced by our multi-agency working group (mostly by me) proved to be quite helpful.

I accompanied the group on Thursday as we toured the "North Lands" park area.

Wendy has been spending much of her time nursing Owen, who is still doing poorly. He has his better hours, but in between, he seems to be slowly declining. We think the problem is neurological, possibly a lesion or tumour in his brain. We can see the time coming when we may have to make that difficult decision.

I spent a couple of afternoons this week cutting and splitting some cedar board ends into kindling. We kept all the red cedar scraps from the siding on the music room. Red cedar not only burns well as kindling, it also has long, straight, clear grain that splits beautifully. A perfect piece of cedar will ring like a xylophone when you split it. It splits so well that you have to resist the urge to make 10" long toothpicks.

I now have a large supply of kindling, enough that I won't have to split wood out in the rain for a while once the heating season starts.

23-Sep-2012

Early this past week, while hauling water to various plants, I stopped by the grapevine to sample the fruit. The grapes have been gradually getting less and less tart each time I tried them. On Monday, I thought, "Just a couple more days and they'll be ready to pick."

The challenge in harvesting grapes is to leave them long enough to get sweet, but to pick them before the birds get them. Pick them early and you have a sure harvest, but they are sour. Pick them too late and, well, there's nothing left to pick.

So, after a couple of work days when I didn't get to go near the garden, on Thursday, I sampled another grape. Mmm! Just right! Odd, I thought, that the birds haven't got them yet. Then, I looked around and noticed that half the grapes were already gone, picked clean. I had just happened to come along in mid-harvest. It is good to get the seal of approval from the experts. I quickly grabbed a bucket and some shears and picked all the remaining bunches. Bwah-ha-ha! Take that, birds!

There are not enough grapes to make wine with, but quite a lot to eat. It's just as well that the birds took their half. The grapes are quite tasty. Juicy, too, though where the moisture came from, I don't know.

Our rainless streak continues. There was a bit of a sprinkle on Saturday morning, enough to show some moisture on the road, but not enough to measure. We are currently sitting at 63 days with almost no rain. (Almost none in this case being defined as no days with 2mm or more of precipitation.) The record for Denman Island is 68 days, set in 1915. We stand a good chance of breaking that record.

Our stored rainwater is down to 33% of capacity. At the present rate of use, it will hold out until mid-October. Surely it will rain by then!

Besides grapes, we are still harvesting the late raspberries. The ever-bearing stalks are reliable producers right up until the first frost, so we expect to have a lot more berries. We are watering them regularly.

We have started harvesting apples. Most are not ripe yet, but enough are falling to the ground that it is worth checking the trees regularly. Both the gravensteins and the spartans are looking good this year.

Today, we started harvesting plums. This haul is just of the ripest of the low-hanging fruit. I will have to take the ladder out tomorrow and get some of the higher plums, and then keep checking them frequently. A bit more warm weather would have made them ripen more evenly, I think. They are very tasty stewed.

Owen the cat is off to the vet again tomorrow. We are still not sure what is wrong with him. On his previous visits, they discovered a touch of arthritis, and a smidgen of kidney disease. But those are looking more peripheral to the real problem, whatever that is. He staggers, loses his balance, walks in circles, or just lies motionless in stange positions. We are thinking that the symptoms are looking like something neurological.

The symptoms come and go. Sometimes he is almost normal, meowing and walking up stairs, though he still sways a bit when he stands. Other times, he is in bad shape. We are hoping that he is at a low point on the visit to the vet, so they have something to diagnose. Otherwise, all they can do is take some blood tests and guess. This is going to be one of those "stay tuned" stories.

Today we stopped in at the Earth Club Factory Guesthouse, where they are building an "Earthship" greenhouse. The building is going to be earth-sheltered on three sides. The walls on those sides will be made of stacked tires filled with earth. The south-facing wall, of course, will be glass. It will be interesting to watch as the construction proceeds.

16-Sep-2012

My lack of posting last week was noted and commented on. Some weeks, there's just not that much to say. I will endeavour to provide more timely commentary in future, even if I have to make stuff up.

The weather continues to be clear, mild and DRY. We had some measureable rain last week - all of one millimetre. That's not even enough to keep the dust down. The forest fire danger continues to be extreme, and there is still a complete burning ban on the island, the latest in anyone's memory.

The sunny weather is emphasizing the change in sunlight now that it is September. The contrast of light and shade produces some very vivid images. Our Virginia creeper is turning red, one of the few plants that really get fall colour here. The big maple at the back of the meadow is starting to turn yellow, but that may be more from dehydration than from actual fall colours.

Every day, I wheelbarrow 50 gallons of water in buckets from the garden up the hill to water our hazelnut trees and the front entrance vines. Our stored rainwater is more than half used up now. We have enough left to see us into October at the current consumption rate. Hopefully, we will have some rain by then.

In the garden, the first of the late raspberries have started to ripen. Some of the apples are ripening. We have already had our first dessert of apple dumplings made from our own gravensteins. The grapes are still a few days away from being ready to pick. One or two in each bunch are good, but the rest are still a bit too tart.

The robins are finding the mountain ash berries to be just right. On Tuesday, there were about a dozen robins in our little tree, picking the berries.

Being woken up early on a Monday morning is a shock to the system at the best of times. Being woken up by my Fire Department pager is worse. I was startled to hear the words "structure fire" from the pager, and alarmed to hear that the location was the Old School. The Old School is one of several heritage buildings on Denman Island. If it is not 100 years old, it must be getting close to it. Several community groups use it for meeting and office space, so it is a much loved building. A fire there would be very bad news, so I was very awake very quickly.

Fortunately, the fire was spotted quickly by a passerby on their way to catch the first ferry. The prompt alarm and the rapid response by the Fire Department allowed us to contain it to a small area of the porch, saving the building and contents. Had the fire started at an earlier hour, the building could have been a total loss. The cause has been deemed suspicious and RCMP are investigating.

On Saturday evening we attended a talk by Bob MacDonald of the CBC's Quirks and Quarks program. The event was held as a fundraiser for the Denman Conservancy Association, in celebration of its 21st birthday. The event was sold out, and the Seniors' Hall was filled to capacity. Bob's talk centered on how unique our planet is in the universe, being the only place that won't kill us instantly, and how important it is to preserve it in that condition.

Today, Wendy, Larkin and I drove down to Nanoose Bay for a greyhound meet. Once a year, about 40 greyhounds and their humans get together to run, play, and sniff each other's butts. (Just to clarify, it is mostly the greyhounds doing the sniffing.) It was the first time that Larkin was in the company of that many greyhounds since she came to live with us. She was a bit shy. Although she had a good time and enjoyed hanging out with the other 'hounds, she was quite happy to come home.

3-Sep-2012

The light in the sky is starting to look more like Indian summer than midsummer. The sky is clear and the sunlight is bright, but the shadows are getting longer. Temperatures have been moderate, but not hot this week.

Larkin doesn't like heat, but it seems that direct sunlight is more of an issue for her than air temperature. So, on sunny days, we have been taking her down to the south end of the island, where the trails are shaded by mature forest. One of those trails ends up at the Chrome Island lookout, where the view is classic.

We made a point of hiking that trail on Friday, before the hordes of weekend tourists arrived. The Chrome Island lookout is the one trail that tourists are likely to walk on, and the access to it passes the Hornby Ferry terminal. We avoided the ferries on the Labour Day weekend, but the ferry traffic crossing the island made it obvious that they were busy.

This evening's final ferry off Hornby Island would have received the annual "wave-off", at which residents wave at departing Labour Day weekend tourists. The tourists are free to believe, if they so choose, that the waves are friendly and mean "come again".

I have heard that a similar wave-off occurs when they leave Denman Island on the connecting ferry. In any event, I was not able to participate, as I was on fire patrol duty with the fire department, checking for smoke and illegal campfires.

I harvested some more beans from the garden. Aside from some kale and chard, the beans were the only remaining crop in the garden. Everything is bone dry. Keeping the remaining crops and several ornamental vines watered is taking about 70 gallons of water a day.

The earlier raspberries stopped producing a few weeks ago, but the late berries are developing nicely, and we should get a good harvest that lasts until the frost.

The grapes are starting to get slightly transparent. They are still sour, but are now edible-sour as the sugar content starts to rise. I am going to have to monitor them closely from now on if I want to pick them before the birds and raccoons get them.

We saw a sure sign this week that summer is drawing to a close. The mountain ash trees were covered with robins picking the berries.

26-Aug-2012

With one exception, our main activity the last couple of weeks has been trying to keep the garden watered. Up until this evening, we had had no rain for more than a month. (It is raining now, finally, enough to measure. I have been using an average of 50 gallons a day on our two rows of beans, the raspberries, and various vines near the front entrance. We have a few hazelnut trees that we planted last fall that were looking a bit unhappy with the dry weather.

The garden proper is easy to water. I have the soaker hoses already set up, and the valves pre-set, so I just have to set the timer for 45 minutes, and it takes care of itself. However, watering the entrance vines and the hazelnuts requires wheelbarrowing buckets of water up the hill from the irrigation system to the front yard. We have plans to install a rainwater system behind the music room, which will be uphill from the entrance area and can supply water to it.

The forest fire hazard, with all the dry weather, has risen to extreme. Grass everywhere is crunchy, and the duff along the sides of the roads is like tinder. One carelessly-tossed cigarette butt... The Fire Department has been doing weekend patrols in our new off-road utility vehicle for a few weeks. We have now increased the patrol schedule to daily. Every evening, we are out checking for smoke or illegal fires.

Last weekend, Wendy and I braved the Vancouver traffic to attend my brother Adrian's wedding. They held it in style on board a cruise boat in Burrard Inlet, while the boat sailed around Stanley Park and English Bay. It was an occasion not to be missed, one that would not have been possible a few years ago.

Wendy noticed this little green tree frog on the window of the basement door.

This weekend, I spent most of my time trying to fix Wendy's computer. For some reason known only to Bill Gates, it decided to stop networking. Everything else works just fine, and the network hardware can even see and be seen by my computer. It just won't communicate. So, although it is only a year old, it has become a boat anchor. Luckily, I had a spare laptop that I was able to configure in a relatively short time (half a day is short, when you talk about setting up anything on Windows) so that she can have email and web browsing.

The last few days, we have been worried about Owen the cat. He has been gradually getting lethargic, and this week he started limping. An overnight stay at the vet hospital indicated arthritis in one hip, as well as possible kidney problems. He came home much improved after receiving IV fluids, and we had antibiotics and painkillers to administer to him at home. However, the narcotic painkiller really set him back, leaving him totally zonked out and unable to eat or drink. The latter is a problem for his kidney function. We discontinued it, but his appetite has not improved. So tonight, he is back in hospital for more tests.

19-Aug-2012

No Denman Diary this week. Wendy and I are attending my brother's wedding.

12-Aug-2012

The warm summer weather continues, with no complaints. Temperatures are on the warm side of 25°C, which is plenty warm enough.

Things are getting quite dry, however. Since early July, we have had less than 10 mm of rain, and none at all in the last three weeks. Fortunately, the cool damp spring left us with full storage tanks until well into July. Keeping everything watered is rapidly consuming that supply, taking about 100 gallons a day.

We had a good harvest of beans this week, with more to come in a week or so. The raspberries have been doing well, and the late canes on the everbearing plants look like they will keep us well stocked through the fall.

Out in the former meadow, now the back lawn, we left one patch of goldenrods unmowed. They are blooming now, and doing their job of attracting bees.


One insect that needs no attracting, but which shows up anyway this time of year are wasps. We have a couple of nests that we are keeping our eyes on. Wendy discovered this one on the cat shelter the hard way. We plan on taking action early in the morning when the occupants are moving more slowly. The cats will be locked indoors until things settle down. [update: Wendy Waspinator has successfully dealt with the nests.]

In the warm weather, we have been taking Larkin for her walk early in the day. She still expects a later afternoon walk though. To keep her from getting fidgety, we take her out for a run around the yard in the evening. She doesn't always want to run, but when she does, capturing her in a photo is a challenge. This attempt turned out to be almost artistic.

6-Aug-2012

The weather this week took a decidedly summery turn, with temperatures reaching up to 30 degrees, our warmest temperature in two years. Fortunately, we have no major projects on the go, so we have been able to take it easy in the heat. Yes, after complaining about the long cool spring, we are now complaining about the heat! Still, relaxing in the hammock with a book and a cold beer is not too bad.

Larkin especially minds the heat. She is used to living in air conditioned accommodations. While she is keen to go on her daily walk no matter what the temperature, she runs out of energy on hot days. She especially dislikes exercising in full sun, and seeks out the shady side of any trail.

Because of that, we have begun taking her on her walk in the mornings, right after breakfast. Our favourite hot weather walking area is the Boyle Point Provincial Park, and the adjoining Morrison Marsh Nature Reserve. There is a whole network of trails that are all in mature forest, unlike the trails in the north Denman lands that are in recovering clearcuts.

One trail that we have discovered runs along the top of the cliff that forms the south shore of Denman Island. I am sure that the Provincial Parks people would disavow any knowledge of the trail, and would discourage its use for liability reasons, but it is a beautiful trail along the edge of the forest, lined with arbutus and even garry oak trees. The length of our dog walks limits our distance to as far from the car as we can get in 30 minutes, so we have not been able to walk the whole of this trail, but we have explored it from both ends. One lookout gives a view of Chrome Island from a slightly different perspective than the standard tourist trail does.

The garden is hanging in quite well in the heat. I am watering the veggies and raspberries every day. One advantage of the cool moist spring is that we have plenty of stored rainwater in the tanks.

I have finally found a type of soaker hose that works well with my solar-powered irrigation pump. Most rubber soaker hose requires a high pressure to operate. The water will not flow in any significant quantity unless the pressure is over 50 psi. The trouble is that my pump's shutoff switch is set for 50 psi. So the pressure builds to 50 psi, and then the shutoff switch stutters trying to hold that pressure, while still not flowing enough water.

The new soaker hose I found is made of coated nylon fabric. The stitching along the edge perforates the coating, allowing water to seep out fairly quickly at low pressures. The garden gets more water in a shorter time and the pump can run at a lower pressure without wearing out the shutoff switch.

Our apples are showing some colour and look to be quite healthy. It seems to be a good year for apples. The grapes, too, are enjoying the heat. If it stays warm for all of August, they might be harvestable.

I have found from experience that you have to harvest them one day before they are fully ripe. You pick one periodically to taste test it. As they ripen, the taste test indicates a few more days until harvesting, two more days, one more day. The day you think, "Tomorrow, they will be ready" is the day to pick them. Because if you are right, the next day you will wake up to find that birds and racoons have done all the harvesting for you! While it is gratifying to have one's judjement confirmed by experts, it would be more gratifying to eat the grapes.

Last night, I was up late taking star pictures. While I was setting up the telescope, I was listening to the Mars Curiosity spacecraft landing. It was quite an exciting event, as they reported the speed dropping in just a few minutes from nearly 6 km per second to a few metres per second, the parachute opening, the rockets firing, and the bizarre "sky-crane" lowering the rover to the ground. It will be interesting to see what it discovers.

22-Jul-2012

The weather this week took a dive. After two weeks of hot, dry, sunny weather, it turned cool, cloudy and rainy, just in time for the weekend.

It wouldn't have been so bad except that I was planning to attend the Island Star Party, a gathering of amateur astronomers. The idea is to camp at a relatively dark site, stay up all night looking at stars, and then sleep late into the morning. The fun of a star party is being able to pull an all-nighter, look through other people's telescopes, and exchanging ideas and techniques.

Of course, it requires a clear, moonles sky. The moonless requirement limits the scheduling possibilities to one or maybe two weekends per month. So, having the weekend clouded out was disappointing. There is another one next month, but family committments will prevent me from attending it.

Instead, I stayed home and attended the Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival with Wendy. Though we didn't attend all the sessions, the ones we did attend were interesting and enjoyable.

This year, we billeted BC writer Audrey Thomas, who was a delightful and interesting guest. She was a bit mischievous, and, when moderator Des Kennedy made the mistake of calling her "venerable" (twice!), she scolded him by quoting a bit of street vernacular from the presentation of one of the other panelists. The exact term she used is not suitable for reproduction in this blog. Des is going to be hearing about that for a while - he had it coming to him.

That pretty much sums up this week.

I have recently figured out how to run the camera in rapid-fire mode, which is the only way to catch Larkin in full flight. Now that we have the former meadow mowed, she enjoys running flat-out around it. While her straight-line speed is blindingly fast, the really impressive thing is to see her corner at full speed. She leans into the turns at a 45-degree angle, and sends divots flying as she turns.

15-Jul-2012

This week has been a busy week, but with not a lot to write about. The weather has continued warm, with temperatures in the mid 20s.

The strawberries have ripened en masse. I didn't have time to pick them daily, the way we have done at the peak of the season in past years, so I ended up doing a couple of massive pickings. At the beginning of the week, many of the berries were mouldy or rotten from all the wet weather leading up to this hot spell. By the end of the week, overripe berries were drying out instead of moulding. The harvest was generous, even allowing for weather and slug damage. The most recent picking filled nine boxes from the three beds.

We made several trips into town this week, which is unusual. Normally, we try to limit ourselves to one trip every two weeks. We find this harder to do now that we have a dog. Not wanting to leave her alone for long periods of time, Wendy and I have been alternating solo shopping trips. However, that would mean each of us going four weeks between trips, and sometimes you just can't wait that long. So, we have been doing roughly one trip a week.

On Monday, we took Owen the cat in to see the vet. He had been losing a bit of weight, and we took him in a few weeks ago to have him checked out. After a change of food (luckily, he prefers the new food), this was the followup visit. Good news - he had put on weight.

A second unplanned trip was for Wendy to get some eye trouble checked out. There was no way to do this without both of us going in, since she wouldn't be able to drive coming back, due to dilated pupils. So, trusting that Larkin would be okay alone for the afternoon, we went into town. However, once there, the ophthalmologist decided that the eye problem need to be corrected right away with laser surgery. Which meant missing a couple of ferries, and coming home two and a half hours later than planned. Fortunately, I was able to phone some friends to come over and let Larkin out for the necessities.

The third trip into town was a planned shopping trip. With the warm weather, I needed some summer clothes.

Speaking of warm weather, walking Larkin this week has been a problem. She really minds the heat, so we have been walking her right after breakfast, on shady trails. Of course, she is used to an afternoon walk, so even on days when she has had her walk in the morning, she is getting restless in the afternoon. What we have started doing on those days is to take her for a short after-supper walk down Pickles Road, followed by playing on the new lawn.

Playing involves a lot of running. In our yard is the only opportunity she has to run, and she loves to do it. It is hard to get pictures of her, though, because she is faster than the camera. Here are a few. Her favourite outdoor toy is a blue grooming mitt that she likes to toss in the air, and then circle around and try to pick it up at full turbo speed.

8-Jul-2012

A couple of significant events occurred this week. Summer arrived, and the music room was completed.

Spring gave us one final parting shot on Tuesday, with some monsoon-like showers. One deluge gave us 3.6 mm in less than 5 minutes, a raifall rate of 43 mm per hour. That is by far the heaviest rain I have seen since we moved here. Luckily, it didn't last long, but it was heavy enough to cause erosion rivulets on the driveway.

After a few more cloudy days, summer finally arrived on Friday, with temperatures getting up into the mid 20s, the warmest so far this year. The next week is forecast to be warm. We intend to enjoy it, because it may be the only chance we get this year.

The strawberries suffered a bit from all the moisture. We had some casualties to rot and mould. However, there are lots of ripe berries, and we have been enjoying lots of strawberry desserts.

The rest of the garden isn't doing too well, however. We have a massive infestation of black slugs. Our first seeding of vegetables didn't show above the ground, and I thought maybe the seeds were bad or old. However, last week, I bought half a dozen lettuce seedlings already started, at the Saturday farmers' market. Yesterday, I went down in the evening to water them, and found only a few of them still standing. The others had been eaten off at the ground. There was an army of slugs all around the remaining ones, and several slugs were up on the stalks munching away at what was left of the leaves. Needless to say, the black slugs that we see tend to have some rather un-Buddhist "accidents". It is a losing battle, though. Maybe next year, a harder winter and a warmer spring will reduce their numbers. We can only hope.

The other big event this week was the completion of the music room. Wendy had said she wanted it done before summer. Though the contruction ended up going on longer than we anticipated, summer cooperated with her wish and held off arriving until the room was done! The construction debris has been removed from the site, there is now flooring installed and even baseboards.

"Even baseboards" is a Denman in-joke. With many owner-built houses being occupied long before they are completed, this final trim detail is missing in many of them. Many Denman houses may never see baseboards in their lives. So, having them installed means that the building is really, really complete.

We have started moving the music instruments and equipment in. So far, the accoustics sound reasonable.

Today, we went to an art show at the studio of our friend, painter Leslie Dunsmore. She is famous for her slightly surrealistic landscape paintings, but her garden is as gorgeous as her paintings. Calla lilies are one of her specialties.

1-Jul-2012

Happy Canada Day! July is upon us, along with expectations of warm summer weather. Well, it's in the forecast. Stay tuned next week to see how accurate that turns out to be. Denman Islanders are starting to get a tad skeptical about weather forecasts. However, a couple of times this week, the inaccurate forecasts have worked in our favour.

On Friday, we attended one of the major community events of the Sustainability Festival - a community barbecue outside the Seniors' Centre. The objective of the event was to showcase and celebrate our local island agricultural producers. I suspect that the soybeans in our veggie burgers weren't grown on Denman, but all the rest of the food was locally grown. The salad, in particular, was extremely fresh and tasty.

The weather turned pleasant and even almost sunny just minutes before the event began. That may have been one factor in the success of the event, but interest and support for local agriculture and local food sustainability are high in this community. They printed 60 tickets for the event, but 115 people showed up, forcing some of the growers to rush back to their farms for more produce.

The other big event this week was the annual Firefighters' Canada Day Pancake Breakfast. Setting up gets off to an early start, with firefighers expected at the firehall at 6:30 am. Watching the setup is an exercise in chaos theory and self-organizing systems, but amazingly, everything gets done by the time the first pancake is flipped at 9:00.

Once again the weather forecast was pleasantly wrong. The expected showers failed to materialize, and we had partial sun and moderate temperatures. That was probably a factor in the good turnout. We won't know the actual figures until later this week, but we typically feed 450 - 500 people, which is nearly half the population of the island.

As usual, my job for the breakfast was cooking the veggie sausages.

This year, the proceeds of the event are being donated to the Community Hall restoration project. Denman's 100 year old hall is to be given a proper foundation, the old one having rotted away, but they don't have enough grant money to finish the job. It is hoped that the firefighters' contribution will help with restoring the floor after the foundation work is completed.

The Firefighters' Association has been busy lately: another project of the organization was to donate to the Fire Department a four-wheel-drive light utility vehicle (a.k.a. a "quad"). With all the new park areas that are to be opened up to the public, there are many kilometres of trails that are difficult or impossible to access with regular fire department vehicles, and many kinds of emergencies that we might be called upon to deal with. While there are places that even a quad can't go, it will make much of the park area accessible and allow the department to deliver rapid assistance.

The new quad was delivered on Thursday, just in time to unveil to the community at the Pancake Breakfast.

The music room is nearing completion. The walls were painted and the window trim installed this week, and I installed the lights. We expect one more day of work to lay the flooring and install the baseboards should finish it.

25-Jun-2012

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.

17-Jun-2012

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".

10-Jun-2012

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.

3-Jun-2012

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...

20-May-2012

This was a week of mostly nice summery weather.

The Denman Farmers' Market started up on Saturday for the summer. This is a popular attraction, and is a source of fresh, organic, locally-grown produce, especially later in the season once the various harvests get going. It is also a place where local artisans sell their crafts, and where community groups can promote their messages, raise funds, and sign up members. With the pleasant weather, it got off to a good start for the season.

With the warmer weather, dragonflies have started hatching. Wile at the farmers' market, this beutiful golden dragonfly landed on someone's hand, and stayed there long enough for portraits. Dragonflies are among our favourite insects, because they keep the population of mosquitoes and biting flies under control. We have a good environment for them at our place, apparently, and several different species emerge at various times all summer. We enjoy watching their aerobatic manoeuvers as they hunt down the mosquitoes.

Work continues on the music room, though not as fast as we would like. There is tar-paper on the walls, and the floor has been prepped for the concrete slab pour on Tuesday. The roof, which is currently tarped against the rain, will be going on this week as well, and we are expecting a delivery of cedar siding on Tuesday as well.

I have been working on the electrical rough-in. I can't complete it until the concrete is in, but then I need to finish it quickly so that the insulation can go in. It will be nice to get my workshop space back!

The Denman Island Pottery Tour was held this weekend. We have seen all the studios before, so we just went to a few of our favourite potters' studios. We were very well behaved, and only bought one small bowl.

I was hoping to take some photos of the solar eclipse on Suday afternoon, but the weather saw fit to turn miserable just in time for it. I had to make do with looking at photos on the Internet. I am trying to get as much practice as I can photographing the Sun to get ready for the Venus Transit next month. I hope the weather is more cooperative for that event. There won't be another Venus Transit until the year 2117.

The cats have been feeling neglected with all the greyhound photos lately, so here is a picture of Owen enjoying a sunbeam.

13-May-2012

The big news this week is the weather. It finally feels like summer. After a couple of years with long, cool springs, we have been itching for a year with some real warmth. As long as the weather doesn't regress, this year is shaping up well. A summer that lasts from May to October can be glorious, even if it scares my firefighter side.

We recorded our first two days over 20 degrees this weekend, and the forecast for tomorrow calls for 25, with sunshine right through the week. It is perfect for germinating the seeds I planted last week: beans, beets, lettuce, and kale. (I may be the only gardener on Denman who plants kale: most people here can't kill it.)

The daffodils are fading, but the tulips are putting on a good show.

The apple and pear trees are covered in blossoms. In the last couple of years, cool weather affected the availability of bees for pollination at blossom time, resulting in poor harvests. Today, the apple trees were buzzing with bees. It could be a good year.

There are flower buds on the strawberries. Just in time, as we are starting to run low on last year's frozen berries.

We saw our first dragonflies this week. They are not a moment too soon. The gnats that preceded the emergence of the dragonflies were really annoying. They would get up under my hat brim and bite a line across my forehead. Suddenly, there are no more gnats. We really like having a healthy dragonfly population here. All summer, waves of different types of dragonfly take care of our mosquitoes.

Work is proceeding on the music room, albeit slowly. We had a word with our builder and hopefully progress will be more rapid from now on. The windows were delivered this week. Today, I started the electric rough-in.

On Saturday, we went over to Hornby Island to visit with some more greyhounds. Larkin likes other dogs, but she especially likes being around other greyhounds. The folks on Hornby have two greyhounds of their own, and are currently fostering a third, named Hoku. The two hounds of their own are fairly elderly and sedate, but Hoku is just a pup at a year and a half. She and Larkin instantly became best friends and romped through the garden together at 60 km/h. We all went down to the beach at Tribune Bay, where we met some other dogs and generally had a good time.

While it would be tempting to adopt Hoku to give Larkin a pal, we are not sure we want to have two hounds. However, we are gently twisting the arm of our Fire Chief, a former greyhound owner, to adopt one.

6-May-2012

We had enough April showers that we are now entitled to rather a lot of May flowers. We did rather well with daffodils this year, but they are starting to fade. However, the tulips are starting to look good. I had forgotten where all I had planted them in the fall, so it has been fun seeing where they popped up. The ones that are already open are looking good, and there are plenty more to come.

Down in the garden, I have been planting seeds for carrots, parsnip, spinach, chard, and mixed salad greens. There is still plenty more planting to do. Hopefully we get some warm weather soon so they will start growing.

The asparagus got off to a promising start a couple of weeks ago, but has slowed down. We may have to implement some slug control measures. It is still ahead of where it was last year at this time, so all is not lost yet. We won't be harvesting any this year, though.

On the other hand, the rhubarb is fixing to take over the world! We were forced to have rhubarb-strawberry grunt for lunch today, just to thin out the plants. The strawberries, I hasten to add, were frozen from last year's harvest. The strawberry beds look good, but we have a few weeks to wait yet before we start harvesting them this year.


Most of the work in the garden right now consists of weeding. At this time of year, if you don't stay ahead of the weeds, the jungle will take over within a week. Whether or not April showers bring May flowers, they sure do bring weeds!

On Friday, we took Larkin for an outing to visit with some other greyhounds. We have an on-island dogsitter already lined up, but we need to have several options for times when we want to get away. We contacted, through an online network of greyhound owners, someone nearby on Vancouver Island who has two greyhounds, and we went for a visit to see how the dogs got along. It was a good match, and before too long, Larkin was playing in the back yard with his two hounds.

We plan to check out one more greyhound owner in the area soon. Having three dogsitting options will allow some flexibility if people are busy or on vacation.

The new music room now has rafters and a front wall. However, if you look in the photo to the right of the building, between it and the green toolshed, you will see a large maple tree right by the back corner of the building. It was so close, in fact, that the builder had to cut one of the rafters short in order to fit it in place around the tree. The tree had to go. In fact it and another maple on the other side both had to go. We called up "Wild Bill", the local arborist, and both trees are now firewood. Work on the music room will resume this week.

30-Apr-2012

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.

23-Apr-2012

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.

15-Apr-2012

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.

8-Apr-2012

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.

2-Apr-2012

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.

25-Mar-2012

The past week started out with some more stormy weather. Nothing like the previous week, fortunately, and the last couple of days have been pleasant and spring-like.

Our main event this week was the installation of a solar hot water system. The installation took two days. While it was a little disconcerting to the hound and the kitties, the work was not too disruptive. Earlier, I had done some advance preparation by digging out a portion of the crawlspace for the storage tank and building a platform on which to place it.

The installation consists of the solar panel on the roof, some coolant lines that run down the back of a closet, and the heat exchanger and storage tank in the crawlspace. It is plumbed into the regular hot water tank. When the sun shines, the heat warms the storage tank. Any hot water drawn from the regular electric hot water tank is replaced by solar-heated water, so the only electricity used is a little bit to maintain the temperature.

With the sunny weather the last couple of days, we have already enjoyed out first solar showers and laundry. The solar panel on the roof is not an eyesore at all. It just looks like a large skylight.

We have taken advantage of the nice weather to do outdoor work. I have been weeding the strawberry patch, and Wendy has been stacking firewood in the woodshed.

Out in the meadow, there was a pergola that was being held up by a grapevine and a honeysuckle. Comparing recent pictures to ones taken when we first moved in, it was apparent that it was developing a considerable lean. Safety dictated that it should be taken down before it landed on someone's head.

After pruning back the grapevine and disentangling the honeysuckle, I removed a brace that appeared to be valiantly preventing its spontaneous collapse. Hmm, still standing. I pushed on one of the supports and managed to increase the lean considerably, but without success. Finally, a couple of well-placed relief cuts with the chainsaw did the trick, and the structure fell to the ground. Once I have finished dismantling it - the builder used huge spikes to hold the pieces together, so that is not a trivial task - the pieces will be used to line the driveway.

We walk Larkin for an hour every day. We have a few trails that are our "regular" routes, but we have also been exploring the North Lands, the largely uninhabited north end of Denman Island. Larkin has quite a good sense of geography, and knows when we are on a "new" trail. She would rather explore new trails than turn around and go back the way we came.

Yesterday, we were walking along one of the old logging roads in the North Lands when we heard tree frogs chorusing. It is THE sound of spring (right up there with the sea lions barking) and we have been anticipating it for a couple of weeks. As we approached one wetland, the chorus got louder and louder. Larkin was quite curious to see what was producing the sound. Of course, the frogs are pretty much invisible.

Larkin wants to be friends with Owen the cat. Several times this week, we have seen her walk up to him, biff him with her nose, and give a play bow, while wagging her tail vigorously. Unfortunately, Owen doesn't get the concept of play and just ignores her. However, he does like attention, so, given time, he may mellow and become friends with her. Today, they stayed close to each other for quite a while in the living room.

18-Mar-2012

Last week started out with a doozy of a storm. The wind hit its peak at around 7:00 am, and continued all day. The Fire Department was called out to two different hydro line incidents simultaneously. We can't do anything about clearing downed lines, so we concentrate on ensuring public safety by coning and barricading sections of road affected by downed trees or power lines.

The storm affected all of Vancouver Island, especially the east shore from here north. By Monday afternoon, all of Vancouver Island from Buckley Bay to Sayward was without power, including Hornby Island and part of Denman, and all of Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland. The power stayed off there until late Tuesday, and many areas didn't get their power restored until Wednesday or later. Miraculously, we on the north half of Denman never lost our power the entire time. That has to be some kind of record.

The Fire Department was kept busy with more than just hydro line calls. We had one structure fire this week. We were very happy to be able to save the building in this case, with only relatively minor damage. A few more minutes and it might have been a different story.


In addition, we had two first responder (medical) calls, one hazmat call, and one late night motor vehicle incident to attend to. It was quite a busy week, and made up for the relatively quiet winter that we have had.

Spring is springing a bit more each day. We are still finding more crocuses coming up in places where we had forgotten we had planted them. With the yard now deer-proof, they are doing much better than ever before. We have only ever planted supposedly "deer-proof" varieties, but the deer apparently didn't know that. This is our first early spring with the fence and, like the summer and fall, there is a world of difference in how the plants respond.

Down in the garden, the garlic shoots are all several inches tall and looking healthy. I took a look under the straw mulch and found that the rhubarb is coming up strongly, with a lot of colour. It definitely likes to be fed well in the fall. We had it covered with seaweed and straw all winter.

The climbing rose has leaf buds opening.

Larkin is becoming more like a pet every day. She looks forward to her daily walks, which are as much exercise for her nose as for her muscles. She is becoming quite gregarious, and enjoys meeting people and other dogs. She is still a bit shy around strangers, especially men, but she wags her tail nevertheless, and clearly enjoys herself.

11-Mar-2012

The weather this week has been seasonal, with some rain and some sun. At least, it was seasonal until today. This afternoon, there were some fairly heavy snow showers. Fortunately, they didn't last long enough to stick to the ground, but it was a bit disconcerting.

Every day, there are more crocuses up. The daffodils are getting buds, and we are keeping an eye out for tulip shoots coming up, if only so that we don't step on them. We expect the daffodils to flower next month, and any tulips that appear to do so some time after that.

Most of the deciduous plants have leaf buds on them. The climbing rose is covered with new shoots.

Last week, we did some renovation on the woodshed. One bay has now been emptied by our consumption over the winter (three cords). Although we intend to fill it as soon as possible in our ongoing effort to keep our supply two years ahead of demand, we took advantage of the brief emptiness to rip out the old boards that formed the floor and replace them with large-size gravel. The gravel is an easier surface to walk on and to stack wood on, and should still provide reasonable air circulation and good drainage.

I used the old floor boards as new side supports. The old ones did not extend down to the ground, which made it hard to start each row of logs.

As you can see, we have already started loading the renovated bay. We had another truckload of gravel delivered, so as soon as we have another bay empty, it can get the same treatment.

Larkin and the cats are starting to get used to each other. They are still a bit wary of each other, but she and Owen in particular want to be friends. On various occasions this week, they have approached each other cautiously, showing no signs of alarm. Larkin even wags her tail when she approaches Owen. This morning, even Liesl approached Larkin and sniffed her feet. Liesl is too cautious to ever be friends with a dog, but we think Owen and Larkin will eventually end up as buddies.

Today, we attended an extra classical music concert that was not part of the regular series. The Yamaha concert grand piano that is featured often in the regular concerts has been maintained over the years by a fund that was set up when the piano was purchased. That fund is now finished, so this concert was a benefit to raise money for ongoing piano maintenance.

The concert, fittingly, featured the grand piano, played by Jamie Syer, Dean of the Victoria Conservatory of Music. The program was all Beethoven: two piano sonatas, and one for piano and violin. The violin was played by Laurie Syer. Although the concert was not as well-attended as the regular series concerts, all the "regulars" were there. We hope that the fundraising aspect of it was successful.

4-Mar-2012

With the warmer weather, including our first double-digit temperature of the year, more bulbs are coming up. Most of the daffodils are above ground now, some even with flower buds on them. More crocuses are coming up now and flowering. The bulbs seem to be a bit slower than normal this year, but still better than last year.

Most of our activity this week has been centered around Larkin, our greyhound. Greyhounds are couch potatoes, and don't actually need a huge amount of exercise. When asked about their exercise requirements, I tell people that they are used to running about 30 seconds a week when they race. However, exercise is good for her, and good for us, so we walk her daily.

Larkin looks forward to her walks. As soon as we open the inner gate, she dashes up the path to the car and waits for us to open the door. She has a good sense of direction on walks, and always knows which way is "out" and which way is "back". Apparently, "out" is the good direction, and "back" is not so much fun. She loves exploring new territory, and tries to follow every deer trail we cross. After exploring a side trail and returning to the main trail, she will always turn in the "out" direction, never "back".

We have to be careful to limit her exercise. She would happily run until she dropped from exhaustion if we let her.

Larkin is good when meeting other dogs. On a couple of occasions, we have encountered off-leash dogs. Today, we met one that took a dislike to her and growled in her face. We were happy to see that she was non-confrontational. On a different occasion, she was wagging her tail and happy to meet the strange dog's human.

She and the cats are getting more used to each other. Though they don't socialize yet, they don't mind being in the same room with each other. On Friday, Wendy was sitting in the living room with Owen on her lap. Larkin walked up to them and touched noses with Owen, who didn't seem too concerned. We think it is only a matter of time before they become friends.

There were a couple of cultural events this week. They have started showing movies weekly at the community hall. This week's film was the 2002 version of The Count of Monte Cristo, a swashbuckling adventure based on the book by Alexandre Dumas.

This afternoon, we attended a concert featuring the Emily Carr String Quartet, joined by Sarah Hagen on piano. They played String Quartets by Mozart and Shostakovich, and a Piano Quintet by Robert Schumann. In spite of having a substitute player for one of their members who is on maternity leave, they were extremely "tight", playing magnificently together. The Shostakovitch Quartet in particular was a very powerful piece. The concert, as usual, was well-attended.

We are now confident enough of Larkin's good behaviour that we are comfortable leaving her alone in the house with the two kitties while we attend a movie or a concert.

26-Feb-2012

This week has been a mixed bag for weather, with some very wet weather and some cold clear weather. On Friday, it was too soggy to do anything outdoors, yet a couple of times, I was able to go out at night and look at the stars.

Today, it was cool enough that we dressed Larkin in her winter coat for her walk. We take her for about three and a half to four kilometres, or about an hour. She loves to explore new territory, and would like to venture down every deer trail she sees or smells. She would happily run for hours until she dropped from exhaustion if we let her. As it is, she is nicely tired at the end of a walk.

To avoid undue stress on the neck, tall dogs should have their food and water dishes on a raised stand. A couple of weeks ago, I converted an old bucket into a stand for Larkin's dish. For some reason known only to herself, Liesl the cat has developed a taste for water flavoured with dog slobber. She will stretch herself up to drink from Larkin's dish rather than her own kitty-sized dish downstairs.

Larkin and the cats are still mostly avoiding each other. Earlier this week, Larkin was sitting in the kitchen. Owen crept up to her and bravely reached out and touched one of her hind legs while she wasn't looking, then quickly scuttled away. She didn't react, other than to wonder, "What was that?" They have had some supervised mutual staring sessions in the living room. We are hopeful that it won't be long before they are fully integrated into each ther's routines.

In the meantime, both kitties spend most of their time in the basement. Liesl has her own bed downstairs, where she tries to hide, but can't resist peeking to see who is looking at her.

Outdoors, we are seeing more daffodil shoots popping up all the time. There are several crocuses up, and the snowdrops are pretty much finished. Unfortunately, the forecast for this week is for cold and even flurries. Hopefully, the plants are used to that sort of thing.

This morning, Wendy and I dropped in at the Seniors' hall to watch some of the table tennis tournament. This annual event is a fundraiser for the green cemetary project. Denman's table tennis elite, and some ringers from off-island battle for bragging rights in this two-day tournament. We watched some of the doubles playoffs ths morning.

We didn't stay for long, because we don't want to leave Larking unattended at home for too long. Initially, we locked her in her crate when we went out. Then, we just confined her to the bedroom with a chair blocking the entrance. Today, she graduated to having the run of the main floor. She is doing very well. She hasn't chased any cats, and only steals the odd cushion or towel.

19-Feb-2012

The weather this week has been mild with some rain and some sun. Perfect weather for growing things. The first crocus is up, with a flower bud ready to pop, and we have our own snowdrops flowering now. There are more daffodils poking up now, although it will be more than a month before they flower.

I planted a bunch of tulip bulbs last fall, now that our yard is deer-proof. There is no sign of them yet, but I am hoping it won't be long.

There are fresh leaves on one of the hydrangea vines, and lots more buds to follow. The climbing rose has new growth on it, and the hazelnut trees we planted in the fall have healthy-looking buds. Down in the garden, the scallions are poking up through the straw mulch.

Larkin is feeling more at home all the time. We have now had her longer than the foster home did. When we come in from outdoors, she comes trotting out to greet us, all waggy-tailed. She is relaxed and confident around the house.

The cats are feeling more comfortable with her all the time, too. They are gradually getting back to their former routines. While they are still cautious, they don't seem too bothered by such a large, strange creature. Larkin and Owen have even stood facing each other only six feet apart without either one acting aggressive or fearful. Though we had hoped that they would get along eventually, this is progressing much faster than we had expected.

Larkin enjoys going for walks. This week, we started taking her out of the yard. We have been down Pickles Road to the bridge several times. In the last few days, we have taken her in the car to Central Park and Chickadee Lake for longer walks. She was afraid of the car at first. Most of her experience with vehicles in her life has been to take her away to new homes. However, her attitude has rapidly improved with several car rides that ended in walks. Today, she was more than happy to hop right in.

On the longer walks, we go for about an hour. This is quite enough to tire her out. Remember that greyhounds are sprinters, not endurance athletes. In their racing lives, they ran for only 30 seconds a week. She is a treat to walk, especially in comparison with Reba, the doberman that we had in Calgary, who used to wrench my arm out of its socket. Larkin trots along at a good clip, but she not only keeps a slack leash, she actually responds to signals through the slack leash.

On today's walk, she encountered something she has not seen a lot of in her life: other dogs that were not greyhounds. The kids walking the dogs were responsible, and immediately leashed their dogs. Larkin made us proud and trotted right by them without showing fear or aggression.

More and more, we are thinking that we made a very good choice to adopt her.

Today, Wendy and I enjoyed another concert at the community hall, featuring Catherine Ordronneau playing solo on Denman's Yamaha concert grand piano. The program was all French, with pieces by Ravel, Hahn, Debussy, and Poulenc. The final Ravel piece "Gaspard de la nuit" was described in the promotional material as "fiendishly difficult", and I can certainly believe it. While the pieces wouldn't have been my first choice for listening, Ms. Ordronneau played them magnificcently, and we thoroughly enjoyed the concert.

12-Feb-2012

Last week, I mentioned that our daffodils have started waking up. Here is the evidence. There is also new growth on the rose bush, and the leaf buds on the hydrangeas are thinking about opening. We have mulched everything in the garden heavily with straw, so it is too soon to see if our rhubarb and garlic are waking up.

We are trying to work out new routines now that we have a dog in the house. At this point, everything is too new to her for us to be able to leave her alone. So, Wendy and I have to take turns doing errands or working outdoors.

Our biggest fear had been that Larkin would chase the cats. Considering her amazing acceleration, they wouldn't have stood a chance. However, while she is curious about them, she hasn't chased them. Any time she shows a bit too much interest in them, a simple "no" is enough to make her look away. The cats, for their part are no longer terrified, and are starting to show curiosity about her. Liesl now routinely walks past the open door of the bedroom where Larkin is sleeping, and stops to stare at her. Even Owen has held Larkin's eye without running away. That is amazing progress for only two weeks. Still, we need to be prudent, and we can't leave them together unattended.

The other reason we can't leave her unattended yet is that she has a habit of picking things up. She doesn't really chew things, though she did take a chunk out of a pair of my jeans - fortunately I was not wearing them at the time. However, there is lots of potential for damage there, to our furnishings obviously, but also to her (think power cords). Until things are no longer new to her and she understands what is hers and what is not, she requires supervision.

We have taken the door off her crate because we leave it open normally, and the open door was in the way. However, it can easily be reinstalled for those occasions where Wendy and I are both out of the house at the same time for short periods of time.

Have you ever wondered how the brindle colour scheme developed in dogs? This weeks third picture shows why it evolved. I have an even better picture, but you wouldn't see anything in it!

Larkin is a well-dressed hound. Here is a picture of her in her raincoat.

5-Feb-2012

It wouldn't be proper to start this week's diary without a picture of Larkin. She is a well-dressed hound. This is her sweatshirt. She also has a fleece turtleneck jogger, a winter coat and a rain coat. Greyhounds are short-haired and thin-skinned, and do not take well to winter weather. They are definitely indoor dogs. However, Larkin doesn't seem to mind the temperatures we are having, and actually prefers to be cool. Still, we are ready for anything.

She is adapting well to her new home. She is much more relaxed. She is still a bit curious about the cats, but because she is so mellow, they are quickly getting used to the idea of having a dog in the house.

We took Larkin to the vet this week for her first checkup. The verdict is that she is in good health and has excellent teeth, unusual for a retired racing greyhound. The funniest thing was to see her reaction when we brought her home. She has done so much travelling in her journey from the track to here that we are fairly sure that she has never gotten into a car without ending up somewhere strange with new people. So when she got out of the car and realized that she was back home, she got all excited, wagged her tail, and ran straight to the front door with a big grin on her face.


The weather remains mild, and we have been looking for the first signs of spring. Wendy found this clump of snowdrops at a neighbour's place. At a house downtown, a witch-hazel tree is starting to bloom. (right) In a few days, these blossoms will be bright yellow.

At our place, we are a bit behind, as we don't get much sun at this time of year. However, our first daffodils are above the ground, showing little inch-long spears.

I spent some time today pruning the plum trees. They say you are supposed to do them in June, but I have never figured out how that works. Since they desparately need pruning, I decided to do them at more or less the same time as the apples. I'll be pruning them next.

My projects this week included making a rain shelter for the jerry cans of gasoline that we keep for the generator. The old shelter was just a piece of metal roofing held down with a rock. However, that was just a bit too dangerous for a galloping greyhound, so I made a new one out of cedar.


The other project was indoors: I laid a carpet runner on the basement stairs. We just might have the classiest basement stairs on Denman Island! The purpose was more than cosmetic, though. Eventually, once we can trust Larkin and the cats to co-exist peacefully, we want to be able to allow her downstairs. Greyhounds don't do stairs well. Partly, it is unfamiliarity, though Larkin sems to have learned quickly to handle short entrance steps. But also, with those long legs, stairs are just awkward. To prevent accidents, carpet is recommended on stairs.

Emcon, the road maintenance people, have started work on resurfacing the Pickles Road bridge. They have about one third of the deck boards replaced. The bridge was second-hand when it was installed many years ago, and the wooden deck boards have been rapidly deteriorating in the last few years. With any luck, the new deck will last many more years.

29-Jan-2012

As promised last week, here is our new family member: Larkin the greyhound.

Like almost all pet greyhounds, Larkin is a retired track racer. It used to be that racing greyhounds were considered to be machines for making money, and, like any machine, were discarded when they no longer worked. Times, fortunately, have changed, and the majority of retired racers are now rescued and adopted through the efforts of volunteer organizations.

We have looked up Larkin's racing history. Her career lasted from January to July of 2011, and was un-illustrious, leading to her early retirement. This was good for us for two reasons. First, it allowed us to adopt her at the relatively young age of two years old. Second, it meant that her prey drive was low, improving the odds that she would not chase the cats. However, "slow" is a relative term with greyhounds. Her racing speed was over 36 miles per hour from a standing start!

On Thursday, we drove down to Victoria to meet her and her foster parents. On Friday morning, we drove back with her in the back of the car.

Because they have lived all their lives on the track, greyhounds are very much like puppies in that they have to be taught everything. Fortunately, being adults, they learn faster than puppies. Luckily, Larkin has already been house trained, but everything is new to her.

Having a greyhound is new for us, too. Before being allowed to adopt one, we had to fill out a long and detailed questionnaire and have our property inspected by the adoption agency. We have learned (fortunately from books, not the hard way) that greyhounds can never, ever be off-leash unless they are in a fenced yard. If Larkin ever got loose, we would never be able to catch her. Even an Olympic sprinter on steroids can't keep up with a greyhound.

Larkin is a real sweetheart of a hound. She is still a bit unsure of herself and her surroundings. She has moved around a lot on her journey from the track to here, and does not yet know that this is her permanent home.

The cats, so far, are not impressed. Discretion being the better part of valour (and the better part of a lack of valour, for that matter), they are keeping to the basement for now. We will gradually introduce them. In the meantime, Larkin sleeps in a crate in our bedroom. Greyhounds are familiar with crates from their track days, and it gives them a sense of security to be in one when they sleep. It gives us a sense of security, knowing that she cannot chase a cat while we are asleep.

22-Jan-2012

As you may have noticed, there was no Denman Diary last week. My father passed away on January 9th, from cancer, at age 89. My two brothers, my sister-in-law, and I were able to visit with him one last time before he died.

We spent two weeks making all the necessary arrangements and going through his effects, while Wendy looked after the cats back home. It was a gruelling time, and I was very glad to arrive back home yesterday.

In the meantime, Wendy looked after my journalistic responsibilities by documenting the long-awaited installation of the new Denman Island ambulance station, next door to the fire hall. We had expected it to be completed last March, then in September. Ten months late sounds about right for a government operation. I don't even want to think about the budget!


At any rate, it is here now. I noticed today (sans camera) that the building looks essentially complete, and the quonset garage is also installed. With any luck, the ambulance staff will move in soon, a good thing for both them and the Fire Department. They get to move out of sub-standard accommodations (to put it mildly) and into a brand new building, and we get to renovate and occupy more badly-needed space in the fire hall.

Today, in the wind and pouring rain, Wendy and I spent a couple of hours fencing in an enclosed area just outside our front door in anticipation of a new family mamber expected next week. Stay tuned!

8-Jan-2012

This year got off to a good weather start with a two-day Pineapple Express event. On Tuesday and Wednesday, we received over 115 mm of rain. It was very welcome after getting only 75% of normal rainfall in 2011.

With the mild winter so far, everything is still growing. Our December rose finally lost its petals in the wind, but there are a couple of buds showing colour that could open if the temperature stays mild. We have one flower blooming right now: a buttercup. In summertime, we curse buttercups, as the are horribly invasive and try to perform impressions of strawberries in the berry house. But at this time of year, any flower is nice.

My project for the last couple of weeks has been to make a cover for our wellhead. I finished and installed it this week. For reasons known only to himself, the previous owner had brought the water pipe out of the well casing above ground, instead of below the frost line as is standard practice. In subzero weather, this required insulation, which he had provided in the form of a batt of fiberglass stuffed into a plastic barrel. Not only was it ugly, but it was a potential health hazard, attracting mice.

The cover I built is made of yellow cedar frame, with red cedar boards, and a metal roof. The roof and walls are insulated with fiberglass, which is protected from rodents on both sides by steel mesh over the vapour barrier and tar paper. I wired in a light bulb socket to supply heat on the rare occasions when the temperature gets cold enough to require some additional heat. On those occasions, power will be supplied by an extension cord from an adjacent outbuilding.

The roof hinges upwards for routine servicing, and can be removed altogether for major work.

I am off to Fort Saskatchewan today to visit my father, who is in hospital with advanced cancer.

1-Jan-2012

Happy New Year! This is a short Denman Diary, because it was an uneventful week.

I have been continuing to work on the wellhead cover that I reported on last week. The basic structure is now completed. I have it insulated, with mouse-proof wire on both sides of the insulation. The exterior is red cedar. I have installed an electrical connection for a light bulb to provide a source of heat in extremely cold weather. Tomorrow, I will finish assembling the roof. By next week, I should be able to show photos of it in place.

Wendy, in the meantime, has almost finished disposing of the mountain of brush that was left over from our tree pruning earlier this fall. The larger branches are firewood. The smaller ones are now part of our privacy fence along the road. Since we now have enough of that, what remains is going to provide reptile habitat towards the back of the yard. (Translation: the rest goes on a big old pile.)

I recently got a new computer, and have been moving my files and software over to it. Of course, there are lots of incompatibilities (Vista to Win7). The biggest headache is my weather software. Microsoft have changed the way some of the critical functions work, making migrating it a major chore. Needless to say, I have been muttering scurrilous remarks about Bill Gates' ancestry. With any luck, I'll have it moved in another week or so.

Speaking of weather, we almost set a record for the driest December on record. A bit of rain this week spoiled the chance of a record, but we only had 1/3 of the normal rainfall for the month. We did break the old record for the driest 4th quarter.

Here are a couple of pictures of Liesl.