Week ending May 7, 2006.

May began with strong northerly winds. Monday morning I was startled to see a tug being pushed by a boom of logs. The tug was in trouble. The wind appeared to be blowing the logs faster than the tug could pull. The boat was not in control. Some strands of the log boom were trying to separate, but the unit seemed to still be together as it disappeared southward in Baynes Sound.

I expected to find escaped logs washed up later on the beach but none showed up this week. Somewhere the tugboat captain must have regained command of the situation.

Sunshine and pleasant weather has been the order for most of the week. Once I noticed the temperature on the front patio was 22 degrees centigrade. T-shirts have finally become appropriate afternoon wear.

Wednesday morning Marit went with her ladies walking group to Hornby Island. The hike was so spectacular that she offered to take me the next day and retrace the route. I eagerly accepted.

The hike began immediately after walking off the Hornby Island ferry. We took a trail all the way along the coast to Ford Cove at the south end of the island. I thought the trail was magical as it meandered through the trees and boulders. It was not an easy stroll, but an energetic series of climbs and descents on a rocky path. And I know it was hard on Marit's knee.

After reaching Ford Cove we continued along the beach toward Heron Rocks. This is another spectacular section of Hornby Island with its unique sandstone formations. In the picture below Marit looks like she is about to be eaten by a rock monster.

All the rest of these pictures were taken along this hike. I strongly urge you to enlarge some of them (by clicking) to enjoy some of the detail.

Heron Rocks, our final destination, was in full spring bloom. Two of the most magnificent flowers (shown below) were the blue Common Camas (Camassia quamash) and the Chocolate Lily (fritillaria lanceolata). Both these flowers are nor only beautiful, their bulbs were an important traditional food item for the native people.

The Heron Rocks area is now a privately owned camp site. Members who come annually have created a large collection of rustic furniture from the driftwood that was collected along the shore. This year when the campers return I expect they'll be quite shocked at the changes caused by last winter's severe storms. Most of the furniture has been destroyed or washed away. And much of their sandy beach has been buried by storm tossed logs and debris. It'll take more than one season to restore this area to its recreational splendor.

Incidentally, the trail from the ferry to Ford Cove is now a provincial government park called the "Mount Geoffry Escarpment Park". Its not "wheel chair accessible" but can be navigated by mountain bikes. As we returned I noticed that some of the rugged geology looked to be great homes for the Norwegian mountain trolls if they choose to emigrate over here.

At the end of the week we had a little rain, but only briefly. The forecasted storm ignored us. The area is actually beginning to dry out after the wet winter. Yesterday we discovered how dry it has become.

We heard a sound that's rare on this island; sirens. Fire engine sirens. More fire engines than I thought we had on Denman Island. Apparently someone burned a large brush pile situated on the back of their property. It burned out of control, up the hillside, and into the timbered area. Fortunately the season is early and our volunteers quickly had it under control. I shudder to imagine what the results would have been 8 months ago. This incident was relatively close; only a kilometer north of us

Today was the annual Spring Bird Count. I usually find this an extremely frustrating occasion; I can't hear the faint high-pitched calls of the warblers and fly-catchers. But today, nobody else could hear much either. The birds were quite silent. I found 3 of the 4 yellow-rumped warblers counted; not by sound, but by sight. Some of the very common birds (like wrens and juncos) were not seen at all. Maybe the strong wind affected them just as badly as it affected us. We were almost blown off the north spit of land by the strong westerly wind. Still, we did manage to tally 49 species. And that's not counting the two feral Toulous Geese that we found in a large marsh.

At home, the garden is proceeding fairly well. The flower beds are in great shape due to Marit's fantastic efforts. She has not only tilled, transplanted, and pruned, she has also spread a large quantity of fresh fluffy compost after I sifted two large piles that were prepared last year.

In the vegetable area, several rows of peas (different varieties) have been sown and netting has been erected. Leeks, swiss chard, broccoli and carrots have been sown. Some cabbage and cauliflower will be sown in the next couple days. Tomatoes are ready for transplanting soon. And with a little more sunny weather we'll get the beans and squash and other heat loving veggies started. Another season is underway.

COMING ATTRACTION: THE 19TH DENMAN ISLAND POTTERY TOUR. On May 20th and 21st, the potters of Denman Island will open their studios for a free tour. Many will have special sales of unique items. Maps will be available to find all participating sites. This has always ben a fun and exciting event. Plan to visit. For a preview, visit www.denmanpotterytour.blogspot.com

And finally, an apology. You may have experienced difficulties accessing this site last week. I have changed "domain registrars" and the pointers did not get correctly reset. That was remedied on Friday.

Week ending May 14, 2006.

What's happening with the weather?

Yesterday morning (Saturday, May 13) there was ice on a pool of water in my wheelbarrow. Frost was on the ground. Either the climate is changing or someone lied to me about the frost-free date for this area. Next year I'm starting the garden much later. Some of the potato leaves have been partially blackened on the edges but I think they'll survive fine.

Fortunately I hadn't set out the warm season plants. Mt tomatoes and pepper plants were still under a pane of glass.

The blossoms on our shrubs don't seem to have been damaged either. Even this tiny rhododendron is producing a display that is far greater than I thought possible. When it grows, the spring flower show will be spectacular.

In general, spring is quite late this tear. Apple trees are only now blossoming. And the scotch broom that grows wild along the roadsides is only now starting to bloom. When did the wild broom start to blossom in your area? Then you'll realize how much later the season is here on Denman.

But apparently we are about to have an extreme change. Tomorrow's weather is forecast to be possibly record high; around 28 Centigrade. In anticipation, I planted beans, corn, and pumpkins this afternoon.

Today is Mothers Day. But Marit hasn't been relaxing at all. She continues to be "driven"; a woman with a purpose. She's been whipping all the flower beds into shape with new annuals from the nursery. All the flower pot containers have been cleaned, refilled, and replanted. New hanging baskets. This morning she attacked the evergreen Clematis armandii that threatens to take over the house, and pruned it back into submission.

Then she undertook the refinishing of our patio furniture and varnished the cedar chairs. The table is next. Earlier she scrubbed the entire back patio; went through two cans of Shell Buzzy Cleaner to get off all the algae and dirt. I think she's on a campaign to prove that men are unnecessary; and she's doing a good job.

The only resistance she's met was from the oysters. They retaliated, slicing her finger when she gathered a bunch for dinner last night.

This morning I had to get up a bit earlier than normal. To catch the high tide for the monthly waterfowl inventory, I had to pick up Mike Morrell at 5:30 AM and head out to the beach at sunrise. There's quite a glare when we're facing the sun at such a low angle so the viewing was a challenge. The northerly swell of over 1/2 a meter added to the challenge, but Mike managed very well.

Most of the birds are dispersing to their summer nesting grounds up north now. The only real surprise was that so many still remained in this area. There were still a lot of Harlequin Ducks that haven't left for their mountain lakes. And there were large numbers of scoters, both Surf Scoters and White-Winged Scoters, that had not left for the northern waters. It seems to be part of our late spring scenario. Oh yes, we also sighted a lone Spotted Sandpiper on the beach.

The picture (on the right) incidentally was taken this morning as we walked north from Fillongly Park toward the mouth of Beadnel Creek at the far point.

Saturday, the Denman Conservancy sponsored a "Wildflower Walk" led by a knowledgable botanist. I thought it was strange to travel along a rocky beach to find wildflowers, but we were introduced to a fascinating ecosystem at the water's edge. Plants that can tolerate, or thrive in, the salt spray from ocean storms.

Despite the sunshine we were cold (freezing) due to exposure to the north wind. I was forced to dig into my pack and put on an extra nylon jacket and a warm tuque. Like most of these informative nature walks, I find them enjoyable and informative. But at the same time they're very frustrating, knowing that I'll be unable to recall many of these details in a few days time. If I can retain a few of the facts each time, I'm doing well.

I just had to include this picture (on the right) of the ferocious beach monster that guards the southern reaches of the shoreline. It let us pass this time.

Next week, another walk; wild bird songs. I'm hoping they're LOUD bird songs. If I'm able to remember the identity of even one new bird by its song, the outing will be successful.

Also next weekend, as I mentioned before: THE 19TH DENMAN ISLAND POTTERY TOUR. On May 20th and 21st, the potters of Denman Island will open their studios for a free tour. Many will have special sales of unique items. Maps will be available to find all participating sites. This has always been a fun and exciting event. Plan to visit. For a preview, visit www.denmanpotterytour.blogspot.com

>Week ending May 21, 2006.

We did set records.

Hot weather came on Monday as promised. Comox Valley was one of many areas in B.C. that broke the high temperature records at the beginning of the week. Once again I've resurrected my T-shirts, Tilley hat, and large container of sun block lotion.

Now the concern is dryness. The fire rating already is "high". In fact, for the past two days there has been a significant forest fire just outside the nearby town of Cumberland. We've had some clouds move in late this afternoon but the rain was only a 5 minute shower at supper time. We're hoping for something more significant tonight.

Our spring blossoms have continued their displays. Top left is our "Eddies White Wonder" dogwood tree. On the right, another of our rhododendrons is developing well. This one is labeled "Aloha".

Most of the food garden is planted. But I'll have to admit that most of my earlier attempts to "jump start" the season were not very successful. Some had to be planted twice; (the Tall Telephone garden peas were actually sown 3 times before satisfactorily germinating). Next year I intend to be more patient.

This week's heat has been good for the garden. Even the beans began poking through the beds this afternoon, and the first of the pumpkin seeds just emerged although there's no sign yet of the corn or melons. Ezzat, I've also planted an early bed of arugula in case you're able to come up this summer. And they've sprouted.

This has been a very busy weekend with lots of activities on the island. The Denman Conservancy sponsored another nature walk Saturday morning; "bird song identification". The walk took us through some appropriate habitat around Morrison Marsh on the south end of the island. I learned a lot of new information. I learned the call I frequently hear is a warbling vireo, not "another robin song" as I previously thought. I've learned its a Swainson's Thrush that keeps chirping "what?" in our back bushes. I've learned its a Townsend's warbler that I hear at sunset. And I've learned how bad my hearing has become. For the first time, I'm finally recognizing that a hearing aid may not be a ridiculous idea.

A "farmer's market" has been started at the grounds of the old school on Saturday mornings. Apparently it was quite active and successful. But it conflicted with the nature walk. I won't be able to visit it next week either due to another nature walk to Tree Island.

The annual Pottery Tour took place this weekend. One potter told me that her studio was having much more success, attendance and sales, than last year when the weather was poor. Marit acquired a very nice ceramic planter for a hanging display.

Saturday evening was the grand opening of the Denman Island Arts Centre. This old heritage building in "Downtown Denman" was acquired by a group of residents who invested their own money, purchased and restored the structure, and dedicated it to the teaching and development of the arts on Denman. The turnout at 7:00 PM was tremendous.

And right after the opening, there was a concert of Celtic music in the nearby Community Hall. This was a fund raising event for the restoration of another heritage building, the local Anglican church. As I said, this has been a busy weekend.

Back on the home front, I've been continuing my gradual taming of the landscape by digging out the thick weed cover, and layering it with newspaper and bark mulch. This will eventually decompose into humus, and we could plant directly through it if desired. While digging, I discovered that the driveway has been shifted. There's a 30 cm strip of old driveway buried alongside; packed with rocks that I had dug before and placed here for stability and traction. I recognized the rocks. They've grown a little over the years, and I believe they have spawned. They're surrounded by lots of baby stones. But they're all being slowly relocated to their new rock pile. Very slowly.

Marit has spent a lot of hours patiently weeding millions of seedlings from the California poppies that went to seed last year. I used to like the poppies that grew well in tough places. They looked so cheerful. Until I finally realized that they survived by being so tough and capable of acquiring their resources at the expense of any other plant in the vicinity. They're now being confined to the penalty box for rough play.

Finally, a plea for the owner of this mountain bike to come and claim it.
The bike was abandoned two weeks ago on the roadside in front of our house. No one has come by to retrieve it. The bike is a juvenile's size. Its not exactly in mint condition, but very serviceable. If no one finally comes for it, I'll take it up to the free store for adoption by a new owner.

Incidentally, for any additional information about the events or schedule of the new Denman Island Arts Centre, check the website www.artsdenman.com.

And for any American readers, the name was not misspelled. The proper spelling of the Queen's English is "Centre".

Week ending May 28, 2006.

The shellfish industry was not going to be shamed.

This was "Beach Cleanup Week". Residents of Denman Island scoured the beaches and gathered all the debris they could find. Last year they gathered a mountain of plastic equipment that had been lost or discarded by the shellfish industry. This year, the industry had their own cleanup effort two weeks before ours. So our collection (shown on the left) was not as large, but still sizable.

Much of the salvaged equipment was still usable and will be sold back to shellfish growers in some other distant area. The rest unfortunately will be hauled to the garbage dump near Cumberland. (The trays I found on the beach in front of us were still usable.)

There was a lot of beach walking on Saturday, but not associated with the clean-up. The Denman Conservancy sponsored another nature walk; this time to Sandy Island on the north end of Denman. Its accessible on foot at low tide. The picture to the right was taken just after arriving on Sandy Island, looking back to Denman across the mud flats.

Sandy Island has a unique environment that differs from surrounding areas. It is primarily a sand dune ecology, with plants adapting to various stages of ground stabilization. Wild flower displays have a differing mix from those of the forested soils with acidic humus. The area supports an endangered species of moth that depends on a flowering plant growing in the semi-stabilized sand dune area.

We were too late in the season for most of the spring flowering display. But we were early enough to avoid the horde of boaters who come to the shores every summer to picnic, sun tan, and frolic on the beaches. Sandy Island is now a provincial marine park and in the summer a lot of boaters come and anchor for the day. Fortunately there is no source of water on the island so most visitors leave at the end of the day.

The island has hosted an interesting event in recent history. During the second world war, Canadian forces, and the allies, practiced landing operations in preparation for the invasion of the European mainland. It has been suggested that the invasion of Normandy began on the beaches of Sandy Island. A few remnants of fortifications and landing craft are still visible along the shores.

Sandy Island is also commonly called "Tree Island"; in reference to the extensive grove of trees along its centre. But when Captain George Vancouver first viewed the area a little over 200 years ago, he described it as a sandy island. The name stuck.

The great floral display of native vegetation is largely dependent on the removal and elimination of invading foreign species. That explains the picture on the right of Dr. David Scruton, medical practitioner, in the act of strangling a Scotch Broom. (I had to assist by cutting the roots with a sturdy knife from my pack.)

It was a great day. We were remarkably fortunate with the weather. We've had extensive rain showers all week; enough rain to bring our fire hazard rating from "High" all the way down to "Low". Saturday morning looked so threatening that I brought along my full rain gear. But by the afternoon we required sun protection. Marit and her walking group had come out here Wednesday morning. But with strong cool winds and occasional showers, they didn't linger long on the exposed beach.

Back at home, I've been having quite a time with the local birds. A new LBJ (Little Brown Jobie) showed up on the maple stump beside the house. I warbled beautifully. But for two puzzling days I couldn't identify it. Finally, after an accidental encounter at close range, I realized it was a wren; a Bewick's Wren. In the picture its obvious. There was a pair, and they've now started building a nest in on of the birdhouses. Its late in the season; must be a second brood.

I took this picture fairly close to the nest. And the bird sang to me; a call that's fairly common amongst several species. And from my previous nature trips with expert birders, I understood her song. She was saying "PISS OFF!" She was swearing at me.

Other birds are much more tolerant. On Monday a pair of robins decided to raise a second brood in a safe location. The closer to me, the safer it was. There are no crows, no hawks, not even any rain, in my garage. So they proceeded to bring nesting materials to a platform above my workbench. Well! They were most upset when they flew with a mouthful of grass and twigs toward a closed garage door. I'm not that hospitable. I've had to keep it closed all week. I tried on Thursday and the males was quickly in checking.

This Chestnut-backed Chickadee is a much better neighbour, peeking warily out of the house just below our satellite dish. He'd be an ideal tenant, if he hadn't usurped the swallows site.

NEXT WEEK, the update may be slightly delayed. We will be traveling to Egmont on the Sunshine Coast to attend the wedding of Eric Fattah, son of Jenny and Ezzat. We may remain for some additional excursions. Please don't be concerned if the next update is a day or two later than usual.

Week ending June 4, 2006.

Ouch! I'm still recovering from the blow at the start of the week. Our tax notice for the property arrived. Maybe waterfront wasn't such a wise choice after all. Instead of prolonging the agony I sent a cheque immediately. (Post-dated to the deadline of course).

My activities around the property haven't been very glamorous; moving and consolidating compost piles, and extending my carpet of bark mulch into the final frontiers of our untamed weedy areas. But that section is now starting to look better. Maybe this year I'll get over the hump of preparation.

On Thursday this eagle dropped by to watch from the top of a fir tree behind the house. He stayed for a while but didn't appear to be very impressed.

Friday morning we headed out for the other side of Georgia Straight; the community of Egmont on the "Sunshine Coast". Its a three ferry trip; Denman to Buckley Bay, Comox to Powell River, and Saltry Bay to Earles Cove. Even though our destination was almost "straight across" (we could probably see it if Texada Island wasn't in the way), it took all day. Because of the ferry schedules we couldn't arrive before 5:00 PM no matter how early we started.

Egmont really is just "a dot on the map". Right beside the government wharf there is a small general store that has a video rental and a government liquor outlet. It has a small but very decent motel. A very old community hall is just around the corner, and that's it! No cafe, or souvenir store. No boutiques. No book stores. No place I could find a vanilla latte.

There are several resorts down a side road. One fishing resort has a bar and restaurant. And nearby is the impressive "West Coast Wilderness Lodge"; a great place for a luxury retreat from urban centres. And a wonderful site for a wedding, which was the reason for our trip.

On Saturday morning Marit and I went for a 4 kilometer hike on a trail to see the famous Skookumchuck Narrows. Marit is a power-walker, and I struggled to keep her pace. We arrived in just over half an hour so we had to wait to see the furious tidal surge that occurs at the change of tides. Unfortunately we arrived at probably the smallest tide change of the year. There was almost no turbulence. But the area, shown above, was very scenic.

Interestingly, the shores along this stretch of water with its powerful currents are filled with dense beds of giant kelp. In the past 15 years these plants have disappeared from the areas around Denman and Hornby Islands where they used to be common.

This trail had one feature I've never before encountered; a bakery along the side featuring pastries and light lunches for passing hikers. We really appreciated this.

Clouds and showers have plagued us all week. But miraculously they dissipated Saturday afternoon and allowed the wedding to take place outdoors on the deck in brilliant sunshine. The spectacular view from this lodge provided a perfect backdrop for the ceremony.

Incidentally, those waters in the background are not just scenic. They are primary fishing grounds for many species. On Friday we watched many fishermen bring in catches of large ling cod and rockfish. And we watched as many dozens of trays of prawns were brought from traps in this same area. During the ceremony my attention frequently wandered to the small boats slowly weaving through the islands trolling with their fishing equipment.

The gourmet dinner was indoors, but the large windows kept the view visible. The evening finished with a large bonfire down at the beach. And you know, the sky was just as clear, and the stars just as bright as they are over here on Denman.

The reason for this delightful occasion has been the marriage of Margaret Malewski and Eric Fattah. Eric is the son of Jenny and Ezzet Fattah, old friends from our "previous life" down on the lower mainland.

In the picture on the left, Margaret is placing the ring on Eric's finger. Its a double ring ceremony. (For some reason the justice of the peace looks very stern.)

Good luck Margaret and Eric. The weather gods have certainly voiced their approval.

High clouds and showers returned this morning. Marit and I chose to return to Denman rather than stay an extra day and take a trip up Princess Louisa Inlet. At the moment, our own bed feels particularly inviting.

Next week, back to routine, more or less. And another nature walk with the Denman Conservancy on Saturday.

Week ending June 11, 2006.

The season appears to be progressing well.

The property seems to don its colourful flowery display about the same time I switch to summer T-shirts for normal wear. The new light green growth on the evergreen trees is particularly attractive at this time of year. And the blossoming of the peonies is always a highlight in the garden.

Earlier in the week there were a lot of cloudy periods but once again we didn't get the amount of rain that fell down south in Vancouver; only showers.

Wednesday afternoon brought a welcome surprise. My cousin Gordon and his wife Janie dropped in for visit. We were the first stop on a major trip they are taking throughout B.C. and the Yukon.

Despite our offer of the guest room, they insisted in staying in their camper at Fillongly Park that night, then continued early the next morning heading northward on Vancouver Island. Now, as I write , they should be on the ferry leaving from Port Hardy at the north end of the island, and sailing up to Prince Rupert. They intend to drive inland and take the Stewart-Cassiar highway north to the Yukon. Connecting to the Alaska Highway they plan to travel as far north as Dawson City. They'll travel the Alaska Highway on the return trip and come back via Fort St. John and Prince George.

To me, this sounds like an ideal journey. I've traveled part of it before, and would love to do the same again. How long will Gordon and Janie be traveling? They're realistic; they figure somewhere between two weeks and two months.

But I keep telling myself, I'm on a permanent vacation and already live in a holiday destination. These next two photos show two views of Marit's flower garden. She has quite an eye for design and has created a scene that changes with the season and varies depending on the perspective from which it is viewed.

Originally Marit had total control of her "cutting garden". Now all the flower beds have evolved under her care and control. My realm is the vegetable garden. In the left photo below, my rows of potatoes may not be as picturesque as the roadside floral display, but they do provide food. (And actually the purple blossoms that are now on the potatoes are rather attractive too.)

Incidentally, we're still eating last year's potatoes. They're getting rather soft and wrinkled, and their sprouts downright ugly. But so far, they still taste great after being boiled. The butternut squash are still tasty too.

There's a lot of other great gardens and homes on Denman that will be open for display next weekend. Yes, its the annual Denman Island Country Home and Garden Tour once again. For a preview of this year's tour, check the Denman Conservancy's web site (from my selections below). Proceeds from this tour go towards the Conservancy's fund to preserve new nature reserves.

On Saturday we had another walk sponsored by the Conservancy; a "herb walk" with one of the leading herbalists on the island, Sheelagh Mackenzie-Silas. We walked through recently named "Central Park"; the newest acquisition target of the Conservancy. Its an intriguing area with some picturesque wetlands and a wide collection of wild herbs and vegetation. I learned another valuable lesson on this walk; always carry a spare set of batteries for your digital camera.

Erik came up this weekend. He's helping with one of the major projects that has to be done every year; filling the woodshed with next winter's fuel. He's been splitting logs into burnable sizes, and stacking them into woodshed. I'll remember his efforts when we're sitting warmly in front of the stove next January.

Tonight we'll be driving with Erik back to Vancouver. Marit finally has a consultation with a knee surgeon, so its necessary to briefly visit the big city.
If it doesn't rain while we are away, we'll have to start watering the garden when we get back. I noticed today that the local farmer, Wes Piercy, has started using his commercial sprinklers to irrigate the field crops.

A few last words about birds; we've been visited this week by a Black-headed Grosbeak and a Cedar Waxwing. And a local robin, probably the one that's right at my heels as I dig in the garden, is growing desperate to build a nest in the vicinity of our house. This morning it tried to fit nest material on top of an external wall light. It quickly fell off. The bird either isn't too bright, or has a very nagging and demanding mate.

Week ending June 18, 2006.

Some people have to remove dog-doo from their lawns before mowing. I have to remove 'coon crap!

(Warning; some words will probably not be found in the Norwegian - English dictionary). Raccoons continue to travel at night through our yard. They occasionally stop to dig in our garden beds but haven't done any serious damage --- yet. But the souvenir they left are very smelly. I'll have to find a large live trap and eliminate these recent immigrants before the corn or the fruit begin to ripen.

Why a "live" trap? Well, to be honest, its because the neighbourhood cats are attracted by the same bait. The farmer down the road (who has a large corn field) caught two raccoons several months ago. The old softy drove them across the water beyond Courtenay and released them.

No, that top picture isn't my front lawn. Those of you who have visited previously may be impressed that this front roadside portion of our yard is finally becoming tamed. There are still several large areas heavily fortified with determined stands of weeds, but with intense forays of guerrilla landscaping I expect to subdue them this summer.

Marit's flower garden is spectacular this season, especially the peonies. And the Sweet Williams are a close second. Her strawberries are producing so well that she can barely keep up with the picking and processing. My vegetables,,, well, so far I've produced a bumper crop of radishes. We've had a few baby potatoes but we're still a week away from any substantial meals of new potatoes. The pumpkin and squash have grown into robust compact plants that look as if they're preparing to explode as soon as the warm weather arrives. And I just sowed the rutabagas for winter storage.

Last Sunday evening we drove to Vancouver for a little visiting, a little shopping, and a consultation with a specialist for Marit's knee.

We don't get to see my sister often so we visited her and John at their "farm" in Whonnock. We may not have picked the best time to visit; Italy was playing in the World Cup and the game was being broadcast live. That's okay, we're quite skilled at eating while watching the television.

Sonja took us for a tour of the grounds, including their goats as well as her current passion, a brooding chicken. It was really touching to watch a young chick poking out under her devoted bantam mother. (Incidentally, those pet dogs are part wolf and more than a match for the neighbourhood coyotes). We were quite surprised to realize how much rain they had received while we continued to be quite dry on Denman.

Marit's visit to the specialist was great. She is booked for surgery at UBC in October. She isn't looking forward to the hospital stay or the painful rehabilitation, but very glad to realize that a resolution is at hand.

Back on Denman we found there were some "developments" on the beach. Dozens of sacks of oyster shells lay exposed by the receding waters. They had earlier been tossed overboard at high tide by a passing skiff. Apparently these shells have been seeded with oyster spat in a commercial tank and will be used to grow a new oyster crop. The water here is usually too cold for a natural oyster spawn.

But shellfish harvesting is now closed. There is Paralytic Shellfish Poison (PSP) warning all along the inner coast. This is a natural occurrence, caused by a specific type of algae bloom. But its unusual for it to occur so early, and in this vicinity. The previous outbreaks of which I've been aware, were later and closer to the outer coast. The problem may disappear in as little as three weeks, for oysters. But some clams, particularly butter clams don't clear their accumulated toxin so rapidly. They may be banned for months.

This picture from the oyster beds shows our house in the centre nestled among the trees.

A few hours ago the Denman Home and Garden Tour just finished. The party for participants should now be starting. I haven't heard the numbers but attendance appeared to be good again this year. Since there were no new additions on this years tour, and we've seen them all several times before, we went to very few. But I know this island has many excellent gardeners and interesting houses.

One last note; this morning while working in the garden I saw a robin perching on a post. He was balancing rather strangely with is wings slightly apart. Then I noticed he had only one leg, perhaps a recent accident. The first thought that ran through my mind (and please, no psychological analysis) was "wow, his mate really meant it when she said to build a nest, or else!"

Week ending June 25, 2006.

After a mediocre spring, (some people described it as "crappy"), summer arrived early Wednesday.

And it came with a vengeance, sunny and hot. Today the temperature reached 30 degrees centigrade. Tomorrow is forecast to be 34! Keeping the garden watered is the new priority.

On the first hour of summer, I went out to the road and took these pictures of our house. There are certainly different perspectives depending on which side of the driveway you stand.

On the one side (above) the blackberry bushes are threatening to attack any vehicle smaller than a Greyhound Bus. I've already decapitated some of the worst tentacles but the others keep growing. Every year some of the freely roaming poultry try to nest in these bushes. Last week a Guinea hen stared a nest. I'll admit to having one egg for lunch but I wasn't the predator that left only broken shells yesterday. I'm not sorry about the demise of their nest since we find them to be very annoying birds.

The other side (right) is more civilized. The Albertine rose is now visible, but only after a vigorous campaign to clear away a dense thicket of wild roses that encroached along the roadway. I still have a few days of work to repel them back to the property line.

Unfortunately that gate will have to be kept closed again. Twenty minutes ago I found a large doe had just wandered inside the fence. Fortunately she was chased out before she reached the smorgasbord.

On Saturday there was another outing sponsored by the Denman Conservancy; a low tide beach walk. This was led by John Tayless, a retired professor of marine biology. A one hour introductory talk at the old school, and the exploration of the various strata of the tidal zone was extremely fascinating.

He made us aware of the unique marine richness of this area. The upwelling of the ocean currents from the relatively shallow ocean floor bring a rich mixture of nutrients to support a prolific food chain. The variety of life forms and their survival techniques are amazing.

There was a surprise under every rock. We found Blennys, a small fish hat looks like an eel, and Gobys with their sucker type mouths. And the fish in the picture (right) facing the purple starfish is a Midshipman. It remains under a rock guarding the eggs that its mate deposited earlier. (Males are not always irresponsible. In this species the female abandons the lot.)

We were also shown some of the edible seaweed that is imported into delicatessens and health stores. Nori and Agar are common along our shores and readily available to those who can identify and collect it.

Speaking of seafood, we once again gorged ourselves at the Kingfisher Oceanside Resort on Friday evening. Their seafood buffet has become so popular that it is now held twice a month during the summer. The food is superbly prepared, and the selection is so vast that I couldn't imaging sampling everything in one evening. We find the location and setting to be perfect. If you go, and you really should, reservations are mandatory.

This scene on the left has been typical of many evenings this week. The sun is near the horizon in the north west and the light takes on a golden hue. Its very peaceful. My thoughts at this time of year are "Thank goodness the days are about to get shorter". There's less than 6 hours of darkness and those tiny warblers make a very loud noise at dawn. I need more sleep.

I don't know what this picture is on the right. It just came by a few minutes ago and I thought I'd include it. The fishing boat is towing a series of rafts, twice as many as captured in this photo. They seem to be associated with the aquaculture industry but that's all that's apparent.

My efforts as a trapper have not been successful. I've had a trap baited and set all week in my garden. There have been no sign of raccoons. Nothing was interested in my marshmallows. A couple days ago I even put a whole herring in the trap. Nothing. Not even my neighbour's cat. My one week rental is up tomorrow, so the hardware store will get their trap back unused.

One last note; there was a serious accident on the island earlier this week. One resident, Tomas Henning, was working on the engine of his boat when fumes exploded. By chance, I was watching as an air ambulance helicopter landed in the soccer field by the community hall and he was transferred from a waiting ambulance to a hospital burn ward. The report I heard was second degree burns to 30% of his body.

Our deepest wishes are with him.

Week ending July 2, 2006.

Happy Canada Day weekend everybody.

On Denman Island we celebrated Canada Day (July 1st) by raising the fire hazard rating to "High" and cancelling all burning permits. The hot sunny weather has continued all week and the local forests and gardens are drying out.

This morning the Denman Fire Department held its annual Pancake Breakfast. Pancakes and bacon, strawberries and whipped cream; "cake walks" and raffles. All the money raised goes toward additional equipment for our volunteer fire and rescue services.

Len, (shown on the right) is one of the stellar volunteers on whom this island depends in a great many emergencies. So far I don't think the department has ever been called out during the annual pancake breakfast; probably because most of the island residents are already at the fire hall enjoying the event.

I haven't yet heard if I'm a winner of any draws. The prize for which most islanders are praying was raffled by the ambulance association; a prime cord of firewood delivered to your door.

Another special event this weekend was the art exhibition in the garden of Leslie Dunsmore. The experience of viewing her paintings arranged along the pathways of her flower beds was much different than scanning a collection on the walls of a gallery. There was the involvement of searching and finding, and the complementary display of the scenery that enhanced the appreciation.

My neighbour Nick (shown in the path) came along, and both of us agreed that Leslie's paintings were excellent. Nick commented that her art has developed and enhanced over the years. Unfortunately neither of us had any funds that were not already allocated for food, gasoline, and utility payments. But we're definitely returning after winning the lottery.

Back on the home front, (the back slope actually), the native shrub "Oceanspray" is now in full bloom everywhere across our property. While walking down the path to the beach, the hum of bumblebees echoes from the flowers on all sides. At this time of year they're beautiful but later when the flowers dry they're a darn nuisance, falling and sticking to clothing every time you brush alongside.

This shrub ("Holidiscus discolor") is also known by another name; "ironwood" because of its strength and hardness. Apparently the native indians used to make it even harder by heating it over a fire. It was then used for digging sticks, spears, harpoons, and arrows. If only it were larger, the logs would be a terrific fuel for fires; like burning coal. Hmm, I see in some literature that its also medicinal; the dried flower clusters (that are such a nuisance) are a useful diarrhea cure when seeped as a tea. Maybe I should remember that.

In this dry hot weather, Marit has been extremely busy keeping all her plants healthy. The problem is not just the extensive gardens that she has adopted and developed, its the containers and hanging baskets that she has distributed around the house and property. They're certainly attractive: look at this hanging basket outside our kitchen door. But they are extremely labour intensive. At least once a day they all require hand watering.

So far there is no winner in our annual competition to harvest the first ripe tomato. Marit grows hers in pots (that I think are too small) along the hot south wall of our house. I grow mine in a more traditional manner in the garden. Every previous year she's been the victor. But this year the fruit on my plants look more developed and earlier advanced. And if she slips up in her watering once or twice I should clinch the race.

The picture on the right was actually taken from the car window as I drove up the driveway. This is the current state of her original cutting garden; a highlight of our yard. To help keep this area from drying out, I've installed tubing throughout the area with drip irrigation to the base of most significant plants. This is the only area that has any supplementary irrigation system.

The heat has been a great stimulation for the squash and pumpkin. The first zucchini should be ready within two days. And the corn has started a growth spurt that leaves me hopeful. Hopeful that the raccoons don't come back.

But they're not the only animal that concerns us. There is a cougar on Denman that has been sighted by many people. It appears to be roaming over the entire island. It was reportedly seen on a porch about to attack a cornered house cat when the owner intervened. I understand these animals can live off a deer kill for a week in the winter. But at these warm temperatures the meat quickly spoils. More frequent hunting is required. Many residents are concerned.

I'm just hoping it likes raccoon entree.

Week ending July 9, 2006.

A killing on the beach!

I wasn't a witness to the murder but my son, Erik, saw the entire drama.

Erik arrived on Tuesday and has spent the first week of his holidays with us. Unfortunately our services haven't been as good as they should be; he was forced to go out and pick his own raspberries to top his bowl of ice cream. As least the dessert here is fresh.

But back to the murder. Erik was sitting on the back deck watching activities on the beach. He watched an eagle glide along the water's edge. As it passed over a Great Blue heron that was fishing in the shallow tide, the heron extended and shook its wings and squawked noisily in annoyance. Apparently in response, the eagle banked its flight, circled around, and made a pass at the heron.

As the eagle approached, the heron continued its belligerent squawking but at the last moment ducked down in the water and avoided the eagle's talons. But the eagle repeated the maneuver; three times. On the fourth attack, the eagle dove into the water , seized the heron's neck, then dragged the drowned bird onto the beach where he proceeded to devour it.

I missed the exciting drama but arrived shortly after to take this distant photograph. Unfortunately my 10x lens wasn't able to get sufficient magnification. Enlarging the picture won't provide any further clarity.

Other days were not so dramatic. On Thursday we went fishing on the far side of Chickadee Lake. Since Marit had taken the car into Courtenay, we had to walk. A very long walk. The scenery was great, the hike was interesting, but the fish were not interested. In this hot summer weather, the trout tend to stay in the deepest coolest part of the lake; probably taking a siesta.

We weren't too disappointed coming home empty-handed. In the summer months the trout from this lake tend to have a "muddy" flavour. That seems to be fairly common here in shallow lakes that get warmer than trout prefer. Maybe some day I'll understand the physiology of the phenomenon.

The long walk was good preparation for the next day's mountain hike. We drove up Mount Washington (Marit finally let us have the car) and hiked the trails in Paradise Meadows, a part of Strathcona Park.

At the end of the ski season, there had still been a heavy snow pack on the mountain. So I shouldn't have been surprised to find snow still remaining on the trails in early July. But I was. If we continued past Lake Helen Mackenzie I felt the snow would be excessive on the north slope of a steep climb. So we took the shorter route to Battleship Lake and returned after a couple hours.

At Lake Helen Mackenzie I was a bit surprised to so see a pair of gulls on a small island. They were Mew Gulls, often seen on our beach in the winter. Apparently this was a nesting area for them. We also saw a Belted Kingfisher at the lake. There must be more fish in those waters than I previously thought.

Returning from the hike, we found our guest list had increased by three. Lise had come out for the weekend with her friend Nicola, and her cousin Joanne. The four of them toured Hornby on Saturday. Erik and Joanne tried fishing on Baynes Sound in Erik's small fiberglass boat. (Joanne caught her first fish ever, a small rockfish). And of course they played on the world's most challenging bocci course, our front lawn. From the picture, its obvious that we don't waste water keeping the lawn green. The only non-brown materials are weeds.

Games of cards and Scrabble continued well beyond the hour that Marit and I could comfortably stay awake.

Their timing was great to share in some of our first garden produce; we had the first pickings of the sugar snap peas and the regular garden peas. And with four extra diners we finally made some headway into the lettuce patch. Marit claimed victory in the tomato competition, but I still maintain that little marble sized cherry tomato doesn't count, even if it is red and edible.

The rest of the garden is coming along quite well although the pumpkin and winter squash don't really show any signs of producing fruit that will be ripe before the first frost this autumn.

The girls were impressed with the flower beds. Lise is immersed in Marit's main garden (shown on the right).

They left late this afternoon and we're just getting back to our summer routine. When Marit went to take her bath an hour ago, we found the well had just gone dry.

Week ending July 16, 2006.

Nothing sensational to report this week. Just a super contortionist deer that invaded our yard.

I came home Saturday afternoon to find a deer in our yard. A mature doe. It nervously panicked when I arrived; (a very appropriate reaction). It exited probably the same way it entered, by plunging through the fence mesh. The opening, 3 feet off the ground, was 6 inches high by 12 inched wide. (That's 15 x 30 centimeters). Somehow it squeezed through, legs and all.

The deer must have sensed there was no one home. Marit was in Courtenay with several neighbour ladies at a U-pick blueberry farm. I was off on a forestry field trip. And the smorgasbord in our yard was probably tempting. Fortunately the only damage was a few apple tree branches, a cauliflower, and a couple rows of turnips (rutabagas). I had my camera with me in my backpack at the time, but my initial reactions didn't include photography. My thoughts were more centered on a pellet gun. The top photo doesn't have a deer hidden in the foliage, that's just the scene this morning.

The field trip I attended was another of the nature walks sponsored by the Denman Conservancy. This walk, titled "life after logging", was in the property that the Conservancy intends to purchase. The trip was led by Hamish Kimmins; professor of Forestry Sciences at the University of B.C. It was a tremendously interesting session as Hamish described the ecological considerations of the ecosystem disturbance that had occurred, and the probable options and consequences of recovery.

Now, I don't want to use too many flowery superlatives in this narrative but I was awed at the brilliance of this presentation and I gained a great deal of information, learned many new considerations, and realized this was only a hint of the knowledge that our guide had at his fingertips. Did I mention I was impressed?

Back in my little realm, the major project underway is the repair of the root cellar. Its been leaking badly during the winters. I'm now removing all the soil and the plants from the roof and will try to install a better waterproof seal over the timbers.

Renovation seems to be a lot more work than original construction. The surrounding area is now planted and landscaped which makes access more difficult. I'd better put some thoughtful care into this because I definitely don't want to do it again. As it is, I'm already dreading the replacement of the soil on the roof.

There was some rain earlier this week and we had hopes for a good soaking. But the total collection in my rain gauge was only 6 - 7 millimeters. Everything has quickly dried out and we're back watering regularly.

Some of our plants, the Sempervivums shown on the right, are now having a final fatal fling. Individual rosettes have burst upward and blossomed. Unfortunately they only do this once; its their final act and they die after. But the remaining rosettes of this "Hen and Chicks" cluster will continue to propagate and spread.

In the vegetable patch the peas are now coming on strong; both snap peas and the shelling peas. Raspberries continue to be productive. And Marit is now giving away zucchinis. The broccoli are rapidly developing their heads. If we can maintain the watering schedule we should get a decent harvest.

Bird activity is definitely slowing down. Last Sunday on our monthly waterfowl inventory we found the ocean almost empty. On the mile-long stretch of beach that we cover, we only found one marbled murrelet, two common loons, and a half dozen gulls. Everyone is off on the northern nesting areas.

And on Wednesday, the Swainsons Thrush stopped its serenade. For months its has been the first bird to wake in the morning and sing. Its worse that a rooster; such a loud voice for a bird smaller than a robin. Actually I miss it, but I get at least an extra 15 minutes slept every day. I don't know why he has stopped singing. Its still around; I hear its one note call (I imagine it saying "what?"). Probably the youngsters have fledged and he no longer has to maintain his territory or impress his mate.

This last picture was taken around noon today. It appears to be a group of paddlers practicing in an indian dugout. We actually heard them before seeing them; chanting out their strokes. This was probably an early training exercise for the local paddlers because, .. how do I put this delicately? .. their coordination and technique could stand improvement.

Week ending July 23, 2006.

We're having a heat wave. Our nearest weather centre, Comox, recorded 34 degrees centigrade. (That's about 93 degrees on the old Fahrenheit scale). That may not be much in Phoenix Arizona (where this air mass appears to have originated) but up here its considered HOT.

The fire hazard has been raised from "high" to "extreme" and all outdoor burning is completely banned. Of course, its not quite so severe here on our ocean-front property. We only reached 33 for a couple hours yesterday and 32 today.

But I'm on vacation. Two old friends from Coquitlam came to visit and we've been showing off this area. That's why Magnar and I were up in Paradise Meadows last Monday (upper left picture) walking among the last of the melting pockets of snow.

Marit and I took Magnar and Aase over to Hornby Island and toured Helliwell Park (below left). We even took a hike to Boyle Park on the south end of Denman to enjoy the view over Chrome Island. With the setting sun shining on the lighthouse structures, the view was striking. I highly suggest that you enlarge the image to the right by clicking on it.

It was fun to have them visiting When they left Thursday afternoon we had to return to reality; keeping our half-acre garden alive and flourishing.

Fortunately Aase and Magnar were here to witness my triumph in the tomato contest. My plants were the first to produce ripe slicing tomatoes. In addition to the two shown we've had several more and Marit has yet to produce a big ripe one, (just those little cherry tomatoes). I win, for the first time.

But back to the heat. The biggest challenge is providing enough water, with the limited capacity of our well. We've been managing okay by allowing the well to replenish itself during the middle of the day and during the night. Most plants are doing reasonably well although we just noticed that two trees we've forgotten are now looking really sick.

The prize for thriving in the hot temperatures has to go to the pumpkins. Their vines have started galloping through the orchard and are threatening to overwhelm the rhubarb patch and the tomato beds. I'll try to redirect their vines every morning; I should be okay as long as I remember to carry a shovel to smack them if they try to attack.

The broccoli are all starting to produce their main crop of huge heads. Marit immediately stared complaining about how could she possibly use all that broccoli, about how its no good after being frozen, about no room in the fridge, ... before I even brought in the first one! (There's four more I should have picked today). Actually the main reason I have all these plants is not for the huge initial crop. Its for the side shoots they produce all summer long.

This is actually a very difficult time for Marit. She does most of the harvesting, almost all the processing, and all the cooking. She also does most of the watering in her flower gardens. And somehow she keeps all these potted plants alive on the deck and on the porch and hanging on the wall, .... They all need water at least once a day.

She's so busy I haven't dared tell her the beets are now in prime shape for pickling.

While watering the plants I've had fun playing with a young hummingbird and a juvenile towhee. They enjoy scooting into the sprinkle. And the hummingbird liked to sit on the nozzle and dip its behind into the spray. Its strange, last year my playmates were a song sparrow and a chickadee. They're not around; I guess they're too grown up now.

Marit tells me the birds appreciate, or at least enjoy, the bird bath that's installed on the edge of the lawn. They use it to bathe, to drink, and unfortunately also as a latrine. I have to empty and replace the water every morning. Actually they're really slobs; their mothers did a poor job in toilet training.

On Wednesday Aase called my attention to some different gulls that were feeding in Baynes Sound. They were Bonaparte's Gulls. It seems very early. They usually arrive later just in time for the big flying termite emergence.

The raccoon has been seen back here again. And a rabbit, who appears to have bonded with the herd of deer, has been visiting around....

What a zoo.

Week ending July 30, 2006.

We've had a slight break from the summer heat.

The last few days brought cloudy periods and cooler air. Today we actually had a couple showers, heavy enough to send us indoors but not substantial enough to help the garden. I don't expect to get any more before the sun returns next week.

From the picture on the left it should be obvious which part of our property gets watered. Even the septic field deep below the lawn doesn't help the grass stay green during the drought.

The Beaufort Mountains on Vancouver Island are still showing snow fields on their peaks. I took this photo from my deck yesterday, using a 10x lens on the digital camera. But most of the heavy snow pack has now melted and the Tsable River, in Buckley Bay, is running quite low.

The trails on Denman aren't as challenging as those mountain routes. But still the ladies walking group suffered an injury on their Wednesday morning hike. On a steep portion of a trail at the south end of Denman, Jan fell and seriously injured her shoulder. Despite excruciating pain, she managed to walk out to the nearest road. Paramedics brought her to our medical clinic, and Dr. Tetz had her forwarded by ambulance to St. Joseph Hospital in Comox.

Marit was with her to the clinic and stayed with her in the hospital. The shoulder had been dislocated, not broken as had been feared. But Jan now has her arm immobilized in a sling for a few weeks and faces some rehabilitation treatment afterwards.

< Lise has been visiting with us for the week. She was wise enough to decline joining the Wednesday morning hike, but not wise enough to avoid the challenge of blackberry picking. She and Marit were successful in the first bout of the season in this blood sport. They collected the 3 1/2 cups needed for a blackberry pie.

Personally, I recommend dressing for the occasion. Long pants are a Must and a wide brimmed hat is recommended. (I also recommend Polysporin or a hydrogen peroxide spray for an apres-encounter).

Popeye had it wrong! There's more iron in broccoli! And Filomena is helping prove my point. Filomena is a friend of Lise and came on Friday afternoon. This was her first visit; in fact, her first trip north of Nanaimo. She was a very pleasant guest and seemed to enjoy the area. She also likes broccoli, so she's welcome to return. (Of course on the next visit her options may include use of the hoe or the shovel).

Some other vegetables are also doing well. I must have blinked, and suddenly a few of the pumpkins have suddenly shown promise and greatly expanded. And the butternut squash have started to form small versions of their future selves. The corn stalks are now taller than I am. I just hope this isn't prelude to some nasty raccoon story.

The garlic has been harvested and is curing in the garage. Our three pea vines appear to have completed their production; one has already been removed. I suspect our bush bean variety is susceptible to the earlier high temperatures and its production has faltered. It doesn't seem as prolific as earlier years. I may have to research other varieties.

< The root cellar has a new roof. The primary covering is rubberized pool liner with a marine adhesive sealant around the vent penetrations.

I've used wire mesh and sifted all the large stones out of the soil covering to prevent puncturing by rocks. And its all been carried back up to the roof in buckets. I still have to replant all those tulip bulbs I saved, and all the succulents plants that I carefully removed. But that's another project almost completed. I'm eager for the next big rain; will it work?

That's another week. I've just returned from Nanaimo, delivering Lise and Filomena to the Departure Bay ferry terminal. Both carried a large bag of broccoli.

Hope you got home okay ladies.

Week ending August 6, 2006.

Its a long way to the water at low tide.

Erik has come for the long weekend along with two of his friends, Lenny and Shawn. Many years ago they were school mates in Port Moody.

These fellows get a lot more use from the boat than I do. Carrying the boat down to the waters edge can be an extremely arduous task when done solo. Rocky barriers make it difficult to drag or wheel the boat. Both the boat and the equipment are heavy to carry. Its easier to launch when the tide is high, but that changes by return time. So I seldom use the boat myself.

This trip they brought an older 5.5 horsepower outboard engine. Quite a bit older; a 1955 Johnson model. It worked really well. For the first ten minutes. The next 5-6 hours were spent repairing, testing, and puzzling over engine mechanics.

By late afternoon they reverted to plan B and were back on the water using my heavy duty deep charge battery and the electric outboard engine. Its a lot slower traveling, but they weren't planning on water-skiing anyway.

As these photos show, the sunshine has returned this week. But we haven't had the scorching heat. Cooler air flowing directly from the western Pacific has kept daytime temperatures in the mid 20's. And the nights are quite cool; just before sunrise the thermometer has been as low as 10 degrees outside the kitchen door. The forecast is for clouds and a 60% chance of rain next Tuesday. But here in the shadow of the Beaufort Mountains, that forecast is only a humorous tease.

Now that August has arrived and the days are becoming shorter, I'm once again getting up before the sunrise. Early morning is a beautiful time of day. There's always some new activity of interest if I take the time to watch. Yesterday morning I watched these two trying to ignore each other as they maneuvered around the same area to search for breakfast. The smaller bird is Bonapart Gull, recently returned and probably migrating through. The other is a Great-Blue Heron. I wonder if he know his cousin was killed an eaten right there two weeks ago by an eagle.

Marit wanted a picture of her potted Petunias shown. Unfortunately the camera doesn't capture the depth and clarity of the colours. Please, take my word for it, her potted plants are putting on a spectacular show, especially when caught by the low rays of the sun at evening or dawn. And she's kept all those containerized plants alive and thriving throughout the drought. That's much better than I can claim for one of the largest plants in the garden.

Years ago I transplanted a small pine that had sprouted in our old home in Port Moody. It survived the years of neglect before out garden was established. I failed to notice that it outgrew the "collar" I had around its trunk and when I finally released it, a strangled deformity was evident. Without the restraining lines tied to the collar, the tree suffered severe list from the wind and snow. The heat and drought last month was the final straw.

If I may quote from the Monty Python show, "This parrot is dead!" The pine, shown on the right, has clearly deceased.

It was removed earlier this week and its trunk is now resting in stove-length pieces on my woodpile. The branches were already so dry that they snapped when bent. It was a sad event. But the tree was situated in an inappropriate site. It was for the best.

The garden now seems especially bare because three vines of peas were also removed this week. If the squash, zucchini, and pumpkin plants were not racing to conquer the remaining garden space, it would feel bare.

And finally, a Tomato report for those who care about such things. My early prize winning tomatoes (I beat my wife for early tomatoes) were from two heritage varieties; "Saltspring Sunrise" and "Sasha's Altai". But neither of these had the vigor or the potential yield of the other hybrids I planted; "Oregon Spring" and "Improved Early Girl". Compared to the taste of the others, Oregon Spring is rather bland. So once again, my very limited test trial reconfirms Early Girl as the most appropriate variety for this area.

Week ending August 13, 2006.

Watch out for that first step. Its a dandy.

The Anglican church in downtown Denman is being repaired. It never did have a proper cement foundation when it was built almost 90 years ago and even west coast cedar doesn't last forever. The building has been raised on blocks for two weeks now while concrete has been poured around the perimeter and floor joists are being repaired. Apparently the blessings and consecration in 1917 were no protection from the natural elements of rot and decay.

I know they have a good workman handling the repairs (he was one of the main builders of my house), so I expect the church will be good for another century.

Back in my corner of heaven, the potato crop has been harvested and is now curing in the garage. They'll soon be sorted and stored in my new improved root cellar. I wasn't aware that Marit had taken this picture of me this afternoon and it was a surprise to find it in the camera this evening. I'm digging over the potato field and preparing to plant winter rye as a cover crop.

Our corn is coming along fine; I think. I have an embarassing problem; how do I tell when the ears are ripe??? I think it has something to do with silk turning brown on the end and the cob feeling plump, but I'll have to tear one open soon and check. They must be almost ripe so we'd better get the butter, salt, and bibs ready for dinners next week.

The garden is at that awkward stage where the vine crops sprawl across everything and access anywhere is difficult. I'm just hoping that all the melons, pumpkin, and squash manage to grow and ripen before the end of summer and the first frost. This pumpkin has less than 3 weeks to "shape up" for the competition at our annual "Blackberry Fall Fair" on Labour Day. (That 11 inch, or 28 cm. elf has obviously been out in the garden sun too long).

Marit has not only been busy tending her flower gardens and harvesting the food crops, she's also been slaving over the stove preserving, pickling, and baking. She gave me notice today; one more batch of pickled beets and one more batch of zucchini pickles, and that's it! Any more jams or preserves I can make myself!

How can I argue with her when she's wounded? Yesterday she got a little careless with her clippers and took a slice off her finger. I realized how much see was bleeding when I emptied her bucket of garden clippings. I know that blood is a useful addition to the compost heap but this was carrying dedication a little too far.

Another deer problem. I had forgotten to close the front gate after being sent to the store for more sugar. The doe must have walked down the driveway right behind my back as I concentrated on my bee colony. I wasn't aware until Marit called about the deer on the lawn. Very stubborn; it didn't even react much to a BB being shot off its rump. Eventually it left by suddenly leaping through a 9 x 12 inch opening, four feet off the ground. (That's 28 x 30 cm; 1.2 meters up]. I'd call it Houdini, except that it was a female; a doe. I took this picture as it calmly strolled away.

Speaking of strolling, Marit has had a few moments away from the kitchen. On Wednesday she and her walking group hiked to Tree Island on the north end of Denman. Since the tide was very low that afternoon they continued on the tidal flats to Seal Islet, the next one out. Apparently it was a beautiful outing through that unique environment.

My bee colony has brought some surprises this year. I've had mason bees since 1998; Blue Orchard Mason bees (Osmia lignaria. They look more like flies than bees. They're very industrious in the spring and have alway completed their life cycle, (just plain worn out) before the 1st of July.

This year, a new insect continued to use the nesting blocks throughout July and into August; a colourful black and yellow solitary bee. I've contacted some experts through the Internet and they have advised me that they appear to be Megachile relativa, a leaf cutter bee. However "my" bees appear to be sealing their tubular holes with mud, not leaves. They're acting more like Osmia mason bees. Hmmm, could they have been smart enough to learn new tricks from their neighbours?

I notice I've seriously lapsed; I'm years behind in my mason bee updates. So I'll spend the next few days rewriting that module with the many varied recent happenings. And I'll update the findings there.

Out on the water we've recently been noticing a large increase in the luxury yachts cruising in Baynes Sound. This afternoon, one anchored to fish right outside our house. The bigger boat passing behind was particularly impressive. Obviously not a mere millionaire. Even renting the boat for two weeks would be outside of my possibilities. Most of this luxury traffic is probably stopping at Comox on their way up to Desolation Sound and beyond.

Also on the water, Mike and I just completed the August waterfowl inventory this morning. There were a few more birds this month than July but the return migration has not yet really started. There were more loons, and California gulls. But a highlight was the sighting of an Osprey, which we haven't seen in two years. Incidentally, the Osprey is exactly the same bird that is found in Norway and called the Fiskørn.

And that's about it. Oh, the weather; about as nice as could be asked for. Mostly sunny, temperature up in the mid-twenties with nights as low as 12 degrees centigrade. Still, some rain would be nice.

Week ending August 20, 2006.

I think its official business.

Wednesday morning three men arrived in a Zodiac and proceeded to inspect the light beacon on the rocks below. They photographed it from all angles, climbed it, checked it, recorded it, and finally sped off after approximately 15 minutes. I guess the light is good for another couple of years.

That unassuming light beacon is really amazing. It runs on solar power, even when the skies are overcast and raining day after day.It never appears to require servicing; it just works night after night. All household appliances should be so reliable.

Out in the waters of Baynes Sound the navy has joined the parade of yachts sailing past. These supply ships have been by several times this week. Often these appear to be training missions and we can hear the commands of a fire drill being broadcast aboard.

Back on dry land its .... well, dry. A lot of our time is spent watering the gardens and the flower containers. Sometimes, when their requirements were misjudged, we've had a few fatalities. But not many. Speaking of water, my attention has just been diverted for the past five minutes by the antics of birds at the bird bath. Back to the weekly recollections.

While digging in the potato patch last Monday I discovered a few rocks that had been previously missed. I decided that the largest would make a fine ornamental piece in the maple garden, (what else was I going to do with it?). My friend and neighbour, Nick, who is artistic with a keen eye for patterns and placement, helped identify exactly where it should be set. The rock was far too heavy to lift, even sliding it on a plywood sled was painfully difficult. But I maneuvered it into place where it will stay forever, (since I don't expect to become much stronger in the coming years).

From a nearby raised bed, corn has begun ripening as forecast. We've had 24 ears of corn this weekend and more will be ripening later next week. Not bad for a little 4' x 8' patch (120 cm x 240 cm). The corn I planted was "Sugar Dots"; a bicolour corn (yellow and white kernels) from West Coast Seeds.

We didn't eat all that corn by ourselves. Lise and Gary came Thursday night. After a vacation in Las Vegas, followed by four days touring downtown Victoria, they were ready for a few quiet days with the old folks.

We've had a few outings on the island. On Saturday we hiked down to Boyle Point overlooking the lighthouse on Chrome Rock. This time we managed to find the nearby eagles nest; its below the level of our lookout and we could see the lone surviving chick. In reality its no longer a chick; its quite large and will probably be ready soon for its first flight. Watching it calling for its parents for feed was interesting. Even more interesting was seeing the parents land in the tree behind us and appear to disapprove of our presence.

As I focused my camera on the adolescent eagle waiting in the nest, my batteries died. And of course, I didn't remember to carry spares. My memory is as dead as my batteries. I'll have to go back next week for some pictures.

Today (with a new set of batteries) we went to the other end of the island; a hike to the beach below Komas Bluffs. That's Lise and Gary checking out the sights with binoculars. Tree Island is just around the corner of the far point.

This beach seems quite different than the shores down on "my" side of the island. The area is exposed to storms raging down from Desolation Sound. The sand is more packed in tidal ridges. And the muddy sand areas between rocks are rich in sea anemones waiting patiently for the incoming tide. Maybe our beaches would resemble this area more if the shellfish operators didn't move all the rocks on their leases and cultivate the sand.

Komas Bluffs (left) are an unstable cliff side of sand. They are slowly eroding. Even as we watched, a slow trickle of sand fell onto an expanding cone of debris at the base. Decades into the future this shoreline will slowly alter.

Week ending August 27, 2006.

The empty nest syndrome.

Last week a young eagle sat in this nest waiting for food. Today (with fresh batteries in my camera) it was empty. I assume its first flight was successful.

Eagles often return and reuse the same nest for many years. Each year they build it larger. If they're back next year we can follow their family cycle for the entire season. Right now eagles are very scarce in this area. Most have flown south to follow the salmon migration. Probably there are many delegates from Denman at the eagles conventions gathering at Brackendale and Harrison.

Strangely, another species has decided that this is the best time to start raising a family. This guinea hen is incubating eggs near the roadside just 150 meters south of out gate. It had been hidden in the tall grass until blackberry pickers accidentally trampled the area. So far no predator has discovered it.

Its sister wasn't so lucky. Around midnight last Tuesday, a raccoon or a mink discovered another nest in my neighbour's yard. There was a very loud, and long battle. In the morning I discovered a nest of broken egg shells. And I think the bird population has shrunk by one.

This is not the best time of year for a feral bird to hatch a brood. The young birds will need a hearty food supply just when the frosts begin and the winter weather hits. Their tiny brains must still be adjusted to conditions in their african homeland, just south of the Sahara.

Back in the garden, the corn experiment has proven successful. In the small raised bed, 21 stalks of "Sugar Dots" have provided two ears apiece. We've eaten a lot and given away a few. There's still another meal left but that's it, unless some of the side "suckers" manage to produce any "mini-cobs".

The continuing warm sunshine has helped the pumpkin and squash but none of the butternut squash will be ready for the fall fair next weekend. The pumpkin is still just orange; it hasn't yet developed its characteristic red colouring. So I'm not sure if I'll have anything competitive in the vegetable category.

We've been promised a change in the weather next Tuesday; a cold front moving over with a chance of rain. Chance? Unless its forecast as certain we don't expect any relief from the watering chores.

I'll have to admit to some problems that have become evident in my back deck. There appears to have been some movement in the supporting joints and the plastic planking has been pulled out of alignment. Some gaps have developed and some end segments are off their supporting beam. To understand what's happening I've had to conduct an autopsy; removal of a central plank and inspection of the under-structure.

The results: There has been some continual settling of the fill material on which the deck sits, but the biggest problem has been the exposure of the end beam. I didn't cover the wooden 2x6 with a plastic panel and the southwest exposure to the sun, rain, and other elements has caused it to expand, warp, and pull away from the other joints. It can be fixed. "We have the technology!", although I need a little more material. Mainly, it'll take time and patience.

One of the major hindrances is the splendid row of Carpet roses that thrive all along that outer edge of the deck. They cover the edge of the deck and they are very thorny. My hands have been ripped to crimson shreds just in the simple preparation work. Full completion of the project might wait until late fall when the roses are cut back. We'll see.

In other events: I've heard reports that the conservation officer has been over with his hounds, pursued the cougar, and experienced some difficulties. I don't know if the cougar was eventually tranquilized and removed. I don't even know if the report I heard is accurate so I'm not repeating any details. (Maybe that's what raided the guinea nest).

Last Monday there was a wonderful concert in the community hall. We were very fortunate to have Phoebe Carrai give a solo concert on a Baroque cello playing three suites by Johann Sebastian Bach. Her tonal quality with this period instrument was quite different from the sound of Yo-Yo Ma on his modern cello. Very interesting. I enjoyed the evening very much.

And next weekend is our fall fair; the Denman Blackberry Festival. For those so inclined, the annual Blackberry Run/Walk (about 6 miles) will be held Sunday morning. It starts off by going straight up The Hill. Believe it or not, Marit intends to participate. Power walking I assume.

One last comment. For those who asked the name of the builder, currently working on the church restoration, and who helped build by house; his name is Harris Olesen. Six years ago his capability, knowledge, and strength were tremendous assets in bringing my house from "nothing" to the "lock-up stage".

Week ending September 2, 2006.

They're off!

Today at 9:55 AM precisely, the first event of the Blackberry Faire began; an 8.5 kilometer run/walk. It begins very strenuously up The Hill and then turns in a counter-clockwise circle through treed dirt back-roads before finishing in a long hot stretch of pavement. Occasionally even trained runners underestimate the rigors of this race. Today one of the lead runners collapsed within sight of the finish and fell off the side of the road. Fortunately the ambulance was "on site" and a local doctor was quickly available.

Although the winning time this year was a record 30 minutes, other participants in the walking category had a more leisurely circuit. The Ladies Wednesday Hiking Group completed the trek in 1 hour 20 minutes. I had expected Marit (on the right) to be suffering with a painful knee this evening but she insists it was nothing.

The rest of our fall fair has remained fairly consistent through all the years of which I've been aware. The short parade was bolstered this year by the participation of an antique car club. Interesting, but I'm always dismayed when the antique cars are the models from my prime.

As always, the park grounds beside the community hall were festooned with tables and stalls of vendors. The offerings were extremely varied; from used books and records to pottery and gem stones, from hot dogs to baked ribs, and from sculpture to shiatsu. (I especially appreciated the shiatsu).

In the afternoon, the organized games for the kids can be fun to watch too. You know the games -- playing catch with water-filled balloons and trying not to get soaked.

The organizers of the Blackberry Faire are trying to revive the country competitions of exhibiting handicrafts and garden produce. Both Marit and I entered some categories. And I personally feel some guilt. You see, I entered my produce early after the opening, and I suspect that others who came later probably left when they saw my outstanding competition. And that's why there were so few entries.

Here's the results; blue ribbons entirely. Biggest and best pumpkins. Best winter squash (a Butternut squash). And best weaving handicraft; a "table runner". (I should add that Marit had some stiff competition in that category too).

Next year I intend to dominate the "longest carrot" category. (This year I grew only Nantes carrots; tasty but short). The pumpkin are fun, but I fear a hernia if I become any more successful.

Back on the homestead, I've spent several days repairing the deck. I'll be checking for more separation in the coming year to indicate any further settling of the ground. Surely it can't settle and shift forever.

In the middle of that project I experienced interruption; serious welcome interruption. It rained. Heavily! In reality I guess it was just showers; very spotty, many areas had nothing at all. But in this corner of Denman Island I measured 10 mmm in my new rain gauge. (The first chance I've had to use it since buying it months ago).

The sunshine and dryness has returned but there is a slightly different feel to it. Mornings have been as low as 8 degrees. And I have new hope; someday, it will rain again. Incidentally is there anyone who has NOT heard that Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island where it rains all the time, has run out of water? The drought is becoming serious.

One more serious problem has occurred. Some deer have discovered they can squeeze through my livestock fencing. You see, because of inbreeding within the limited population, the local deer are smaller than the average coastal Blacktail. And some small females have developed great prowess in squeezing through mesh that would stop any sheep.

I've had to buy "chicken wire" and attach it along the lower 4 feet of my fence. I've installed 100' so far and will complete the addition later next week. Let's see if they're clever enough to squeeze through 5 cm mesh. Unforunatly I don't think my kale (their favorite target) has enough growing season left to recover for this winter's crop.

Some good news to end this report: The continued warm sunshine is keeping some roses very happy. Many blossoms on Marit's "Joseph's Coat" are spectacular.
And so far there's no sign of late blight on the tomatoes despite the soaking they received from Tuesday's rain.

Week ending September 10, 2006.

First time visitors. My niece Gillean and her husband Martin.

Taking advantage of B.C. Ferries' four day pass offering, Gillean and Martin have toured Victoria and southern Vancouver Island and now drove up to see Hornby and Denman. Thursday afternoon they arrived here; the highlight of their tour. (No, I don't think they did exactly say that but I'm sure they thought it.) Fortunately the weather was still favourable, so even though the gardens are past their prime they were able to see the area at its best.

We enjoyed their visit but their 4 day pass dictated their departure on Friday. I followed an hour later, abandoning Denman Island for the entire weekend.

Once again, Marit had arranged for her group of Norwegian friends, her old "Sewing Club" from Vancouver, to come up for a weekend. There's no room for me when "Ladies Days" takes over this homestead so I threw my camping gear into the car and headed north. I was intrigued by the Nimpkish Valley and the village of Zeballos on the west coast. After stocking up on a few provisions in Courtenay I traveled up the Island Highway to Sayward. Stopping at Charlies Place for lunch is a necessity. Then, on to the "driveway".

Zeballos claims it is located on the Island Highway, and just has a long driveway to the village; a gravel driveway that's 40 kilometers long. Its a good road,,, well, slightly better than the average coastal logging road. But I must admit the 60 kph speed limit is rather optimistic; I never managed to go that fast. The numerous bridges on the road were very practical; no material was wasted making them wide enough for two cars. Single lane was good enough; wait your turn if there's on-coming traffic.

Just before reaching Zeballos I detoured north up another road to a dot on the map called Fair Harbour. It was a 30 kilometer stretch that took only about an hour. (Guess how fast I traveled). It truly was a good well sheltered harbour and a great site for boaters or kayakers who want to explore the Kyuquot Channel area. Fair Harbour (upper right) has a campground, a very small store, a launching ramp, and docks. And that's about it.

These wilderness areas have a lot of natural beauty, like this estuary beside the campsite. Even with rain and low hanging clouds there's a haunting attraction. Did I mention that the clouds rolled in and the rain started before I reached Sayward? There's been no rain up hare all summer, but the minute Birkeland comes with his tent... Is it me or just my timing? Anyway, I was told there was no source of fresh water at the campsite, and no rain shelter, so I headed back and continued to Zeballos.

Driving down from Fair Harbour here's the first view of Zeballos (right), nestled along the side of a huge granite mountain. Zeballos was first populated in the early 1930's when gold was discovered in the area. As often happened in a gold rush, it became an instant town and is reported to have had up to 5000 people. Today there's only about 250. And the main industry is logging, not mining. There's also some fishing activity and three fish farms in the area.

There was a very nice campsite on the outskirts of the village. A fresh water tap was available, there was a covered picnic area, and the whole site was empty. My tent was the only occupant for the weekend.

Walking through the town I found there was lots of other accommodation; a hotel, a motel, and two lodges. There were three cafes and restaurants. Just one small general store. There may have been a couple boutique shops during tourist season but they were all closed up now. The only other visitors I detected in the area were a couple from Arizona. They came up to escape the heat.

I spent most of my time exploring. There are some nature trails in the vicinity but the signs describing the natural sites were gone. Many of the posts remained, but the signage had either deteriorated or been vandalized. Many of the bushes in the area showed signs of severe drought. Its strange to see dead and dry undergrowth in the west coast rain forest.

Another trail, called The Little Zeballos Trail, began right in the centre of town. It was also their official tsunami evacuation route. A short way in, the original trail was blocked off and a new trail with hand ropes for support, led steeply up the granite mountain side. It led to nowhere, just up, and then disappeared. I guess it was just meant to get people higher than a tsunami. I went past the original barrier and continued on the old route. It was beautiful, skirting along the waters edge providing a different view of the village (left). But as an evacuation route, I can see it would take too long to gain altitude. It finally did turn up what must have been an old logging road carved into the mountain side. After several kilometers it became very overgrown with bushes and alder trees; obviously it was not used enough to warrant maintenance. Since everything was wet with the earlier rain, I gave up and headed back.

The only wildlife I encountered on the trail were squirrels. They were fun. We have almost none left on Denman; they've been wiped out be the cat population. There were obviously black bear in the area. Their scat was very common on the trail. From the dark purple colour of the bear scat, I presume they've been feasting on berries; probably salal. I saw blackberry and black raspberries on the bushes but no salal. (Maybe the bears had eaten them all).

On Saturday morning I was awakened by what sounded like railway cars being shunted. I didn't rush out to check, but I suspect the noise was from the loading of this log barge. The logs were sorted and stored just across the inlet from the campground.

Saturday evening I thought I'd wander the street to see what kind of entertainment occurred in Zeballos. It was really "dead"; I couldn't have gotten into any trouble even if I wanted to. I suspect everybody left town for the evening to go to some other lively spot. I say this because the dogs of the village all started talking to each other after dark, and nobody seemed to tell there dog to be quiet. The nearest house to the campsite had a large, loud, deep voiced animal. Sometime well after midnight the dogs decided they had nothing more to say.

Sunday morning I awoke to the sound of rain again falling on the tent. So I threw the tent and gear into the car and headed to Sayward for breakfast at Charlies Place.

< Along the roadside I notice a mink scampering. At least I think it was a mink; it was noticeably brownish, unlike the black specimen I saw on Denman a few weeks ago. The deer I saw were larger than our Denman variety. And they were not as tame; they bounded off swiftly looking like their legs were pogo sticks. A dead deer laying stiffly on the side of the Island Highway was definitely larger than those around home. There was even a turkey on the side of the highway, a sight I'm very accustomed to at home.

And this time I checked carefully to see if the moose I saw while driving up was still in the marsh. It was, and this time I saw it was a wooden cutout with a set of moose antlers fastened on top. Aha, I wasn't going crazy. I was sure there were no moose on Vancouver Island. And I'd been questioning my sanity.

Arriving home, The visiting Norwegian sewing club and I managed to wave at each other as we passed at the ferry landing.

Hope you had a good weekend ladies in spite of the 6 mm of rain that registered in my rain gauge.

Week ending September 17, 2006.

Not today.

The wind is howling, the rain is pouring, and its rather cold. This picture was yesterday. Unfortunately todays weather rather matches the cold which Marit is currently suffering. We're hoping it doesn't last too long.

I've been continuing to have a problem all week with marauding deer. I've put chicken wire (2 inch mesh) along most of my fence, and patched any areas that they might crawl under. (Yes, believe it or not, these deer prefer to crawl under a slight opening rather than jump over a barrier). And still, despite these efforts I had to rush outside only minutes ago as I spotted a small deer just outside the window. The cheeky vermin trotted up my driveway to the closed gate, looked back at me (I think he sneered), then jumped straight through the gaps between the boards. So, as soon as the wind and rain stop,,,,, more chicken wire. This place will soon look like a POW camp; Stalag Denman.

These are some of the crops I've been protecting. Our cauliflower are late; these are the first we've harvested. The broccoli continues to produce an abundance of side shoots; enough so that its hard to consume them fast enough.

The tomatoes keep coming strongly. Late blight hasn't struck yet but I'll have to keep a close watch after today's rain. The peppers are now ripening but the surfaces that have been exposed to direct rainfall seem to be getting soft and mushy. Is that normal?

And since the cantaloupe vines are starting to wither in this cooler weather, we've started eating the melons. The first ones we tried have been ripe and very tasty. I'm undecided as to whether they were worth the garden room though and don't know if I'll try them again next year.

The job isn't over after the harvest has been picked. All the old raspberry canes that produced fruit have to be cut down, and the new growth thinned out for next year's production. Such stressful decisions; which canes should live and which should be sacrificed. The corn is easier; all the stalks have to be eliminated. Complete genocide.

Neither of these residues compost easily so I've been passing the corn stalks and raspberry canes through the shredder. The chopped up material will rot pretty quickly when spread in the pathways.

Yesterday I encountered one mini-disaster. I found one of my apple trees laying flat on the ground. I blamed the deer for leaning on it, but in reality the cause was probably the weight of apples and a some strong gusts of wind. Apparently these dwarf trees should be permanently staked. Marit helped to raise the tree and held it in place while I fastened some supports. We'll see next year if it survives. I'll also be watching next year to see if the lower branches of my other apple trees survive. The deer have been munching the lower leaves, and deer saliva is rather toxic to some plant growth. (Bambies are NOT cute).

Here's something that IS cute. Last summer a wren (Bewick's wren) built a nest in one of my birdhouses intended for chickadees. When cleaning out the houses this week, here's what I discovered inside. The wrens had filled up most of the house with twigs and then built a small nest on top of the fill material, (picture right).

Details of the nest itself (left) are fascinating. Its mainly lined with feathers from guinea hens. And they've laced around the top with salvaged fibres from the blue propylene rope that oyster farmers leave all over the beach. For good measure they added a dried skin shed by a garter snake. (Maybe this is a wren's version of a bear skin rug).

Five tiny eggs were laid into this deluxe construction. And then they deserted the nest. I know where they went. My neighbour, three houses north, had a small birdhouse intended for decoration, not use. The wrens apparently preferred this and started all over. They even attacked my neighbour whenever he came too close to the shed where the home was mounted. And they seem to have successfully raised their brood.

Did I offend them? I remember them swearing at me a couple times in bird language. Maybe someday I'll find out what was wrong with my maple stump location.

But now something NOT so cute. In fact, if you are squeamish about gruesome depictions; or if you're about to eat dinner, DO NOT expand the accompanying picture for greater detail. In fact, leave now.

A dead deer has washed up at the high tide mark. Its fortunate that its located two propertied to the south because it now stinks terribly. It has been there at least a week, and no turkey vulture has descended to clean off the carcass. I know they've detected it; they've swooped nearby but haven't dared land. From a vultures point of view, there's a lot of activity on the road and in the propertied nearby, and the body is close to the bushes where danger may await. So they haven't come.

I'm hoping the 4.6 meter (15.1 feet) high tides in the next three days will wash it away, (and not wash it closer to us). It really smells.

Here's one more beach scene we are not too happy about. Last week three cages were delivered to the beach in the low tide zone. the black mesh bags appear to hold small abalone and will be "filed" like drawers into the metal frames. Its obviously a pilot project for an expansion of the lease holders activities. We wouldn't like to see any expansion of this project along the shore. So we intend to investigate the legality of these beach structures.

On the water, the winter birds are starting to return. Two days ago four Yellow-billed Loons were swimming out front. They looked so snobbish, holding their bills slanted upwards. And yesterday four Harlequin Ducks were perched on a rock below us.

On land, I've seen the Golden-crowned Sparrows but haven't heard their territorial songs yet. And the lone California Quail that has disappeared all summer showed up again this week, looking much stouter I guess the hawks didn't get him after all. He's probably checking to see if my feeders are in operation yet. Come to think of it, I'd better start preparing for another season of feeding.

Week ending September 24, 2006.

Summer is over.

There were lots of record occurrences; heat, sunshine, lack of rainfall and all. But most significant to me; this was the first year ever that my nose did not sunburn and peel. Ombrelle SPF 45 and my wide-brimmed Tilly hat kept me protected through it all.

The rain that began last weekend was wonderful. 53mm fell on our garden (that's 2 inches); other areas on Denman received even more. The fire hazard rating fell to low. And I think we won't need to water the yard again this year. Now, after several days of sunshine, cooler weather and clear skies, .... comes fog! Yes, that's fog in the upper left photo just lifting at noon today. Twenty minutes later it was again clear and sunny.

This weekend we were honoured to have two old friends visit; Anne Brevik and Martin Vennesland. They chose a different approach to retired life. Setting off in a 40 foot sailboat, the Nor Siglar, they spent 9 years circumnavigating the globe. Although that adventure is now completed and they have parted with their ship, they still have salt water in their blood. When they left this morning they were headed north to Port McNeil to join a 42 foot sailboat and tour around the Broughton Archipelago.

Anne is a marvelous photographer and writer She has published a great book of their adventures titled "9 Years on the 7 Seas with Nor Siglar". If you have ever momentarily dreamed of leaving it all and sailing away, check out their web site. You may want to get their book.

Last night at dusk I took Anne and Martin up to the road to see the herd of deer that regularly patrol around the neighbourhood. This time there was nothing. Even with a powerful flashlight we could't find the reflection of any eyes. Two evenings ago when I drove out to a meeting the reception was quite different. A herd of five terrorist deer were standing on the road watching carefully to see if I closed the gate. And horrors; they have been joined by an ally, a large gray rabbit that now runs with the pack. An Axis of Evil was at the gates.

I've patched all the holes where they may be crawling in, and I've put chicken wire netting along the livestock fence. It should be secure. But I just noticed that all the tops of my pepper plants have been lopped off. Should I just give up? Feel the force. Come over to the dark side Luke. No! Never!

I don't consider hornets to be an enemy, but I was startled to notice that this nest has been just above my head all year as I worked with my mason bees and tended the shade garden below this cedrus tree. Thinking back over the summer I remember occasionally watching a wasp scraping a thin layer of wood off the plywood structure holding the mason bees. I knew it would be used to make paper nest material but didn't realize it was being built right above me. Oh well, the frosts will soon come, the colony will die, and I'll have another souvenir.

Down on the beach, I talked to the lease holder about his plans for the oyster and clam management. The metal frames that were previously on the beach have been moved to the low tide line. And they have been joined by several more frames. I watched as the last of these frames were lowered into the water. They are grouped right beside a large rock that is even taller than the cages, so no boat traffic should be passing overhead. He claimed the Coast Guard approved this arrangement as not being a hazard to navigation.

Each of the frames are filled with mesh bags containing young oysters, (not abalone as I had thought). The oysters grow much more quickly when they are submerged (and feeding) for a longer time. And they are protected from normal predators in the deeper water, like starfish and moon snails. We won't see the frames all winter because the tide is never that low during the daylight in the winter. (And I really don't want to go down on the beach with a flashlight at 2:00AM in January just to see the oysters).

But I still don't know if the structures conform to the Denman bylaws for W2 foreshore usage.


For the diary of previous months, select the month below.

May, 2000 June, 2000 July, 2000
August, 2000 September, 2000 October, 2000
November, 2000 December, 2000 January, 2001
February, 2001 March, 2001 April, 2001
May, 2001 June-Sept, 2001 Oct. - Dec, 2001
Jan. - Mar, 2002 Apr. - Aug, 2002 Sep. - Dec, 2002
Jan. - Apr, 2003 May. - Oct, 2003 Nov. - Dec, 2003
Jan. - Mar, 2004 Apr. - Sep, 2004 Oct. - Dec, 2004
Jan. - Mar, 2005 Apr. - Sep, 2005 Oct. - Dec, 2005
Jan. - Apr, 2006

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