Saturday, July 25, 2015

Reclaiming Chaos or Garden as Metaphor yet again...

Hollyhocks, saved from seed collected while doing a late summer relief stint at Chrome Island Lightstation several years ago, now add their glorious shapes and colours to our lives on Lennard Island. I started them from tiny seeds, separated into seven different colours first, in greenhouse flats. Excellent 100% germination! Then I transplanted them into my sawed-down cardboard milk cartons, the two litre size, and let them grow and establish even better root systems. Finally, I cut out the bottom of each milk carton, being careful not to sever any roots, and planted them with the protective anti-slug waxed shell of milk carton, into a flower border which had been so overcrowded with creeping buttercup, renegade comfrey and thuggish Shasta daisies that I physically winced everytime I walked by it. Which was often as it is right outside our house.

But thanks to the hard work of both Jeff and myself with sustained weeding and then mulching with lawn grass clippings over the last two years, I was able to plan the sites for each hollyhock as well as thin out incredibly crowded clumps of daffodil and agapanthus africanus (Lily of the Nile) bulbs and to replant the lovely pale orange dahlias which were here when we arrived (and doing battle with the buttercup, which never sleeps....) Now, at last it is a flower border which lifts my spirits whenever I look at it, with glorious early spring bulbs, dozens and dozens of them, followed by the hollyhocks-white, pale pink, medium pink with a burgundy centre, dark pink, lime green with a pale red centre, pure, clear red and deep burgundy, with one lovely contained clump of Shasta daisies. The cheerful white and yellow-centred daisies will carry on blooming as the hollyhocks die back and the "sunrise" dahlias (my description as the original name is unknown) come into their long-lived summer and fall showing.

I still get in there with my dandelion digger and my bare fingers to pull out baby buttercup seedlings and teeny comfrey leaves but now it's simply low-maintenance beauty.

The gorgeous lime-green hollyhock with the pale red centre. The bees and hummingbirds are thrilled.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

On Red Enamel Guard Rails and Other Mishaps

There are two seasons on the lights, as we grizzled lighthouse keepers refer to working and living on a B.C. lightstation in the 21st century...and in the preceding centuries. Winter = months of rain and high winds running the gamut from frisky gales to borderline hurricane force and keeping the roofs on, hatches battened and fixing tools and equipment within the warm and dry workshop building, solid and sound since 1904.

Summer=lawn mowing and painting and hedge-trimming and gardening, which means planting, protecting, watering, harvesting, replanting if the fox sparrows have succeeded in finding a hole in the chicken wire or a gap in the remay cloth. There are not quite enough hours in the day when it's a dry day. Start bread, water greenhouse. Water new plantings and pick another batch of snow peas to freeze. Get started on phase two of the bread. Time to paint the many, many metres of guard rail with red enamel paint. Hours spent, many upside down, painting with nose filled with fumes and knees and back adjusting to the task. Groaning out loud helps. It's a grotty, messy job best shared with another lightkeeper to keep the momentum going, like all onerous tasks in life. 

But for two days now, despite wearing my ancient sun hat, I have managed to get red enamel paint on my hair. Yes. The first time it happened I was taking a break from the sweltering heat of the work to do my afternoon weather report observations in the radio room. I took my hat off and ran my hand through my sweaty bangs and tugged at my ponytail. My damp, stiff ponytail. The red paint was drying rapidly while I watched the wind anemometer to see if it really was gusting in five knot jumps or if it was just puttering between 17 and 21 knots at an unhurried pace. I had the sky, the height of the waves, the size of the swell all figured out and noted, but I always leave the wind speed for the last observation. NW19, I noted in the logbook and raced to the shelves of the workshop in the room right next to the radio room. Enamel is oil-based not water-based and we all know what that means.... my eyes scanned the shelves.

Ship-2-Shore Industrial. A large plastic tub proclaims that it stops rust and corrosion, it penetrates and lubricates. It was recommended for anchor chains and bilges, for ships and barges. I passed on this one.
W-D40 and 3-in-1 oil, both Lightkeeper's Friends and often used but not for this hair job. Ditto Never-Seez, an anti-seize and lubricating compound which "assures absolute parts protection" against extreme heat, over 2000 F., and I found this most useful to know, it protects against "Fretting, Galling & Galvanic Pitting". 

I plan to take a can of this stuff to my grave in case I end up in Hell where it surely would come in handy. I passed on it for now and frantically sped up my eyeballs past the Plastic Dip, the Instant Patch, Bondo-Glue and finally, a slim can of turpentine on a lower shelf saved the day. Or at least a chunk of my hair. While Nootka and Estevan lightkeepers gave their weather reports to the MCTS in Prince Rupert, I dabbed turpentine on my ponytail, trying not to think of melting my hair into a strange clump, and delivered my weather data with what I hoped was a calm and steady voice. Then I headed back to the land bridge to help Jeff pack up the painting supplies and get the brushes into yogurt containers filled with gas to keep them pliable overnight. 

I had nice Aveeda shampoo and conditioner and a hot shower in mind for myself.