Archive for May, 2013

Bird House

I have built a number of bird houses.  One of the prettiest designs was the Cape Cod Cottage.  Unfortunately on the one I gave to Janine and Vedran I used the wrong glue.  While suitable for keeping indoors it was not suitable for outdoors (where birds live)

J and V contacted me to say that the house had become derelict and possibly haunted so the neighbourhood values were being compromised.  So they decided on a Viking Funeral for it

Double Birdhouse  photophoto (1)

Courtenay Mile of Flowers

In 1967 the town of Courtenay had a centennial project where they laid a 4 foot flower bed along both sides of Cliffe Avenue leading to the 5th street bridge.  The town laid out flats of annuals and the town people volunteered to plant them in one night as part of the celebration.

The tradition has continued ever since.  For some reason Pat and I either were not aware of the annual planting night or were away.  But last night we were around so decided to volunteer.

The beds are prepared the day before by town workers and in the afternoon they lay out hundreds of flats of annuals.  Petunias, Marigolds, Begonias etc.  Then starting at 5 pm the town people volunteers show up to plant.  In normal years this is a big tradition for families to pick a spot with the kids and plant.  But last night was a cool windy evening so there were not as many volunteers.

Anyway Pat and I drove down and picked a stretch where no one was working.  About a 60 meters long with maybe 30 flats of 36 plants each.  We assumed that others would join us as that is over 1000 plants but as I said it was cool and families quit early.

About 1/2 hour into the planting a couple came along and chatted with us.  They were tourists from the UK and had walked down from the Holiday Inn to see what this activity was all about.  They seemed to want to help and  I had some spare gloves and a digger utensil so set them up and they went down to the end of our stretch and started in.  No particular reason for them to continue (as they were tourists)  but we both worked towards each other and they seemed to enjoy the experience.

After an hour and a half with the temperature dropping even more we had filled the stretch and agreed to quit.  As they were staying at a hotel and did not know anyone, we invited them to follow us back up to our house for a drink.  A nice couple so after the drink we drove into town to share an Indian meal at a new restaurant.

Nigel and Mary from Manchester England.  Do not even know their last name.  They were on a driving vacation to see BC and happened to stop in Courtenay.  One of those interesting events in a life.

We had a wonderful evening with them.  Their company was the reward for the pain in my back I had that night from kneeling and planting more flowers than I have ever done before.

The pictures show part of the stretch of Begonias that we did last night.  So this summer as we drive along Cliffe Pat and I will be able to enjoy the Mile of Flowers knowing we helped.

Flower Planting May 2013

Miata guests from San Diego

Yesterday I went on a Miata run (Pat was tied up on CWL business).  Twelve cars from the San Diego Miata club were visiting the Island.  They were on an extended loop trip that took them up through the interior of Oregon and Washington to  Kelowna,  then over to Whistler, across to the Island for a visit with our club.  They contacted our club a month ago so we organized a short day trip to welcome them with a lunch at a pub before they drove down island to Victoria.  From there they would take the ferry to Port Angeles and then along the coast home.

For them a very aggressive drive of 19 days considering the limited trunk space.  Pat limits our Miata travel to a maximum of a week.

They wanted to experience BC in the loop and fortunately their visit to Kelowna and the drive to Whistler included some clear warm days to see the mountains.  Unfortunately the visit to the island came on a wet overcast and cool day.

Never-the-less we had twelve cars from our club to meet them in Nanaimo then a group drive through Fairwinds golf community ( Nanoose Bay) and up the coast through Parksville to a lunch at a pub on the beach in Qualicum.  A nice drive but as we were sitting in the restaurant we had to convince them that the view East out of the windows over the beach normally came with beautiful mountains over the horizon.

But we had a great luncheon.

You could have dropped the 12 San Diego couples into our club membership and barely notice the difference.  Same age group, same personalities and same love of the Miata drives.  They were very polite about the 13 °C weather and rain by commenting about the luscious greenery of the island.

We have a standing invitation to drive down for one of their group events.  Not sure I could convince Pat to live 2 – 3 weeks out of the trunk of our Miata.


Our poppies are in bloom starting today.  I attach a picture.

We were working around the back yard today, weeding and cleaning up,  when Pat noticed the first bloom.  I said, hey, this is the point where we could make some money (to support our retirement)

I have researched, and just before the Poppy  flower blooms you cut a slit in the pod and drain the ooze.  Catch enough and you have opium.  BIG MONEY

But Pat wants the flowers to bloom.  Granted they are pretty and they get better every year. But think of the lost income.

First Poppie

Foot Rests and Table

When we visited James and family last fall, Monique came to me and said “Dad I want you to make me two Muskoka chairs for the back Yard.  A bit of a surprise to me since I am not aware that I am a noted as a deck chair builder, but I agreed.  Interesting challenge. As it happens I had seen plans in one of my Home Workshop magazines for Muskoka chairs few months before.  They are virtually the same thing as what Americans call Adirondack chairs.

So last winter I took a brief break from working on the model to build a couple of folding versions of the chair. Existing design plans so no big creation by me.   They had to be able to fold down because we would have to deliver them so they had to fit in the back of the Murano.

Kind of fun but I made the mistake of asking Monique what colour she wanted.  I should have left them as just cedar but she suggested Cranberry so I took the challenge of staining and painting them.  Big mistake as that actually took longer than the actual building.  All the parts had to be painted multiple times before being assembled and as it was winter these parts hung from the ceiling in the basement forever.

Anyway we delivered the chairs earlier in May and they were a hit.  On Pat’s Birthday the family sat around in the back yard as James prepared supper and a couple of lucky people got to sit in them.  Very comfortable.

But then Monique said “Dad, very nice, but now I need two foot benches and a table to go with the chairs”.  So I shrugged and said OK but this time resolved that I would make them from my own design and not use someone’s plans.

If you look at the picture the foot benches are curved.   When I was testing the chairs with a log that was available I noticed that you did not want a flat bench.  There is a curve from the bottom of your calf to the heal.  So I made a curved top to the bench.  The table is fairly straight forward but I used a different plan.  Normally you use a light cedar plank top and crisscross legs.  But I knew my son and his family.  Eventually someone would sit on the table so I made it with straight legs and the framing that you would use on a dining room table.

The material was quite cheap.  I went to the local Home Depot and bought rough cedar boards intended for fences.  Pat and I picked through the pile to find the boards with the least knots.  I dried them out in the basement and ran them through my planer.  Boy does cedar wood every look nice when planed down.  The most expensive part of the construction was the brass screws I used to fasten the parts.

This time I did not paint them but left them natural with just an oil finish.  They will last for years as they are very solid .  Now you may think the foot rests are low but they are built to go with the Muskoka chairs where you sit low to the ground.

table and foot rests


Scotch Broom

There is a scourge growing up and down Vancouver Island called Scotch Broom.  It is an invasive species of plant that grows wild and in control in Scotland, but when introduced onto our Island years ago found the perfect conditions to spread like a plague.  For a couple of weeks a year it blooms in yellow flowers and looks pretty but the rest of the year it is an ugly spiny evergreen.  The biggest problem is that every time it blooms every plant sends out 10,000 seeds that root and spread.  They choke out trees and all native plants and grow everywhere.

Think of the worst SF movie about pods landing on earth and wiping out humans.  This is the future threat for all plants on Vancouver Island.  The Broom is immune to any herbicide short of napalm and grows a metre a year with thick hard stalks.

It has become much worse even since we moved here.  Ryan road which runs from Courtenay to the airport used to be clear cut along the road.  Now it is thick with broom on each side.  Every property that is not regularly gardened is being covered with them.

Like the aliens in Mars Attacks, they do have a single small weakness.  When they are in bloom if you cut the stock at the base and drag the bush off to be burnt, the plant dies.  Cut it at the base any other time it immediately twins and grows back.  Apparently when they are in bloom the strength goes to the flowers so if you cut it at the base the plant dies.  (it would be much easier if we could only play yodel music to kill it)

So every year in May there is a huge volunteer effort on Vancouver Island to cut down and clear Broom.  Seems like a hopeless cause but a popular volunteer effort.

This morning I joined a group clearing a 2 acre park in town.  I cannot believe how exhausting it was.  Using lopers to cut the plants at ground level (the plants range from 1 to 3 cm in diameter at the base of the stalk)  and dragging them to a spot where they could be picked up and destroyed.  I spend 3 days a week at a fitness club but 2 hours cutting broom today exceeded any workout I would normally do.  I am stiff and sore  tonight, but strangely content since we did free one park from the scourge today.  I did this last year as well but forgot what a workout it can be.

Reminded me of a time when I went to help fill sandbags to curb the flooding of Lumsden.  Granted I was 18 at that time and I did not hurt as much as I do tonight.

But I will go back to this for the next week because the self satisfaction of doing something for the environment does offset the aches (and it helps that I have had a couple of rums tonight)


Baking Powder Biscuits

Most young people will not remember this fundamental bread alternative for meals.

When I was growing up our mother was one of those rare women at the time, a Working Mom.  Most of my friends had mothers that stayed home and prepared fancy meals.

In those days there were no quick frozen meals from the grocery store, no microwaves to reheat an earlier meal, no crock pot on a timer to have a meal ready when mom and dad came home to feed two ravenous boys.  So for years mother came home and prepared meals from scratch.  Eventually I took on some of the duties.

On the weekend mother might often make a stew from leftovers that could be reheated.

It has been a cool week in Paradise.  Not cold, just not hot.

Over the winter we take the ends from steaks and roasts and sausages and freeze them for a future  stew.  Normally we do the stews in the fall or winter but I suggested we clean out the bin in the deepfreeze and have a stew tonight since we could not dine outside.  So Pat prepared a great stew.

My contribution to the meal was to make a batch of Baking Powder Biscuits to remember my youth.  A big batch that could have fed 6 people.

They were great although I used shortening and I suspect mother used lard.  Never-the-less just what you want with a great stew.


My blog fans will realize my position on those animal parasites, Deer and Rabbits.

We are dining tonight and watching our back yard and Pat is very pleased to see the many Robins bouncing around the yard.  Now who cannot love Robins.

As I watch, the creatures are pulling out earthworms by the dozens and eating them.  It occurs to me that earthworms are nature’s best gift to lawns, particularly those of us with fairly poor soil conditions (we basically live on a gravel ridge with a thin coating of soil)    Earthworms do not eat the plants, they move thorough the soil consuming the minerals and leave castings (poop) that is good for the soil.  The more earthworms the healthier the lawn.

So I am watching birds of prey, tracking around my yard ripping out my needed earthworms.  Ahhhh do I go there where I start to put Robins in the same category as Deer, Rabbits, Rats, Vultures, creatures not welcome in my yard.

I think not for now.  But if my lawn suffers I may be changing my mind.

In the worse case, we  might have to get a yard cat and buy a load of allergy pills so we could live with it.  But I think that is in the same strategy as “I swallowed a frog to catch the fly etc.  ”


The Gleaners

As a young lad, I remember that Mom and Dad had a print of Jean-Francois Millet’s “The Gleaners” on the wall over their bed.

We had a tiny house with virtually no artwork but this painting was there for years and I often looked at it wondering how bad would life be, to be a Gleaner.  After the wheat was harvested in the fields of France the gleaners would walk through the field bent over and picking up the occasional head of wheat and bits of straw.

I have no idea where that print came from.  I asked mother once and while she knew it, she could not remember why they had it, although Aunt Grace did think it came from the farm.   Apparently my grandmother Grace Webster had some sophistication despite being a farmer’s wife.

I was reminded of this painting today as I was working in the yard.  I trimmed the cedar hedge with the electric trimmer to try and bring it back into shape control.  The problem is that the hedge is behind our flower bed so you cannot rake up the clippings (little ends of cedar branches).  So I spent an hour, bent over, gleaning the cuttings into a bag.

Oh my aching back.

As I was working away, the image of the painting The Gleaners was in my mind. Strange how an image can come to you at times like this.


Victoria Day Planting

Today in Canada there were 4.2 billion annuals purchased and plunked into the ground.  Well I am not sure of that exact  number but it must be a lot.

Traditionally in our life in Scarborough and Markham and  Calgary and Oakville and here in Paradise, this was the weekend where you plant annuals.  Chance of frost is gone and in recognition of our support of the Royal Family that rules us…. we plant flowers.

It was a beautiful day here as we awoke early (Pat went to church last night) and swept off to hoover up the hundreds of plants we desired.  Strangely enough annuals are not on sale this weekend at the various stores.  I think we would have had a government commission to investigate an obvious capitalist conspiracy if the NDP had won our recent election, but they did not.  Must be a capitalist plot that when things are in high demand, they do not go on sale.

So we paid full retail for our plants in brilliant sunshine but a comfortable  15 C .

Now this did include Marigolds in the front yard.  As I said I am not a fan of marigolds (I think they are related to dandelions )  but deer do not like them (if you are not clear on my opinion on deer read my earlier blog)

We also  purchased an expensive spray that we can put on our succulent plants that distract deer.  Lets face it the spray smells and has a hot pepper stink.  I wish that it was a form of cyanide that would kill the deer, but as Pat reminds me, I must be benevolent to the creatures that surround us and go with the flow.

I just wish I could sue the Deer Lover Society of Comox Valley for all the flowers we have planted over the years  and their pets have consumed at night.

Ohkay.. OhKay… Pat tells me I should get beyond this anger.  Mellow down.  But still we  have a front yard of Marigolds and Petunias and Geraniums instead of Peonies and Impatiens and pansies .

Maybe I should learn to sit up at 3 am with a slingshot and ice pellets……….. not going to happen