Nov 20 — Because I Had No Title This Week

Wow. The past week was something of a blur. I cannot claim to know where it all went, really, but I was busy much of the time. That might not be entirely healthy, but such is life.

It might not be obvious to those on the outside, but Covid is on the rise here in BC in a big way. Not as bad as anywhere I’ve read about in the US, but not good by BC standards. The province saw over 750 cases identified the day before last, and over 500 yesterday. Those are worrying numbers, and new rules are in place as a result: mandatory masks in indoor spaces, restrictions on a number of businesses and activities, and so on. I am happy so many people take it seriously here, and I hope we get it back under control quickly. Of course this was basically predictable once it got cold and everyone started staying indoors again. Airborne virus transmission is easy when we’re all breathing the same air.

Thus far Anne and I have stayed safe, and we are reasonably careful about how we do things. Mostly that means we don’t actually do things. Other than the grocery store and the hardware stores, we don’t go anywhere or see anyone these days. Well, we talk to the neighbour over the fence, and we might greet someone out on the street, but we’re always more than socially distanced at such times.

The news on vaccines appears promising, though a lot of questions remain. I mostly wonder how long immunity will last. There are many recorded cases of people getting Covid twice, so natural immunity doesn’t last forever in at least a subset of the population. Will that be the case with vaccine induced immunity? I don’t think anyone knows yet. Still, the efficacy numbers on the vaccines look great, so I am hopeful things will start to get better next year as production ramps up and people start getting immunized. It will be some time before Anne and I get our chance as we’re not in a high risk group, nor are we front line workers. But everyone who gets immunized is a step towards herd immunity, and we need that if we’re ever going to get back to something like normal life.

But you didn’t come here for vaccine (or Covid) news. You want to hear about my exquisitely boring life. (And it was your choice to read this, I hope you recall.) So…

First off, let’s talk more about weather forecasts in the Vancouver area.

I actually gave up on tracking forecast data this past week. I even deleted the spreadsheet holding the data. Some internet research convinced me that the app I was using had put us in completely the wrong forecast zone. If we’d gotten as much snow as it had forecast for us in the past few weeks, we’d be unable to get out the front door. I decided that all forecast data collected was thus suspect and threw it out.

Eventually, after playing with several other weather apps on my phone, I determined that a majority of them put us in a neighbourhood called Seymour Heights, which makes some sense. The main road into our part of North Vancouver is Mount Seymour Parkway, and we’re in the neighbourhood that is in the hills rising up from said Parkway. Sadly, though, I still cannot find a single weather app that provides a map showing where a particular forecast is for. I had that in the US. There was a fantastic NOAA website that provided forecasts based on a map. You could click on the map for any location in the US and it would give you a forecast for that spot. It even highlighted the area on the map so you could see what it was referring to, and forecasts were tailored to very small areas.

But even in the absence of such a map, the Seymour Heights forecast seems much more accurate overall than the Riverside East forecast I was using before. This week it has had no snow and lots of rain. Vancouver weather, basically.

So I am happier, but the quest to understand the local weather is not over.

Part of my frustration with forecasts here dates back to when I was going to school. I would check the forecast in the morning and it might say Vancouver would be partly cloudy, but when I got off the Canada Line near Langara College I’d find it raining. Or the reverse would happen: the forecast would say rain and it would be sunny there. I’d carry an umbrella pointlessly as a result.

I still need to understand that, but since I am done with school the number of times I note a forecast is inaccurate in that way is much reduced. In these times of Covid induced, hermitish (Is that a word? I think it is now. Maybe “hermitesque” would be better? Nah.) behaviour, I don’t get out enough or travel far enough to have a clue how accurate a forecast is.

In addition, I received a wonderful email from a neighbour (and reader of these posts) detailing her experiences with our very local weather. She tells me she must have a rain cloud situated directly over her home no matter what the various apps say. As she lives only a block away, that cloud might be an issue for me as well.

She also tells me that other forecast zones (like the general one for North Vancouver) are far too optimistic for the specific area we live in. And in a very amusing passage she details just how the weather varies by which street she is walking on, culminating in the question of whether she should have saved water at home by bringing shampoo and soap with her on her walk. Many thanks to the neighbour in question for making me laugh out loud, as well as reinforcing my belief that the local weather forecasts and apps are, shall we say, less than ideally useful.

Given her description and my own experiences, we appear to live in an area of femtoclimates. Not just microclimates, mind you. Not even nanoclimates. No, this part of North Vancouver is made up of femtoclimates. (A nanoclimate is 1000 times smaller than a microclimate, and a femtoclimate is 1000 times smaller still. Easy, right?) Don’t like the weather? Go next door and see what sort of weather your neighbour is getting. It might be better! Is it raining in the front yard? Check the back. It could be sunny back there, or maybe there will be a tornado. Who knows?

After I have used the new forecast app and website for a while I will probably start saving forecast data again in an effort to see how stable it is. In other words, is a forecast for five days in the future of any use at all, or not? I can evaluate that by looking at how it changes as the actual day approaches. If it doesn’t change much then it is possibly useful, but if it goes from sunny to rain to snow to sandstorm in the course of a week, how can you plan anything in advance? I may also gain some level of confidence in how well a forecast applies to my home, but how well it applies a block away is probably anyone’s guess.

In other news, I managed to finish the repair work on the hallway closet. No photos because it’s just a boring linen closet, but it is back in service. The bi-fold door isn’t hung yet, but that’s only because I am letting the trim paint cure for several days before I put the door back up.

I also made a lot of progress in the garage/shop/studio. The concrete in the back is all done and the wall & ceiling areas I was painting are done as well. At the moment I am halfway through the latest attempt to rearrange the world in there to make the space more useful. The result is such a disaster area that I have no photos of it either. Next week I hope to remedy that.

I spent a lot of time working on the CNC as well. All I can say is that I still don’t get it. I cannot explain the weird behaviour I have seen a few times now. I am attempting to repeat it and diagnose the issue, but so far it is just not cooperating.

Given that is where all my CNC time has gone, though, you can imagine I have not created the video showing what the machine is and does. That is also still on the list, but I am learning not to put dates by things these days. Eventually I will get that done. Or I won’t. You’ll find out when I do.

The big story this week concerns the infamous water feature in the back yard. This thing is an ongoing learning experience, and since a couple of my readers mentioned they like the idea of a water feature enough to contemplate creating their own, I think I should share some more of what I’ve learned.

First, you might recall from some weeks back my harried run to the hardware store to buy hose so I could pump water out of the pond/water feature and keep it from overflowing. (If not, trust me… I did that. It was exciting, and for some reason all the heavy rain seems to fall in the middle of the night.)

The history there goes back to an event in the summer when the water level was dropping regularly. We use a hose to top the water level up, and I turned it on one day intending to leave it running for only a few minutes. Instead I got distracted by something and didn’t get back to it for more like 15 or 20 minutes. The water level in the pond was substantially higher than normal, which is what tipped me off to the fact that I need to be worried about it overflowing. Where does the water go if the pond gets full? It might go right into the back of the house, and that would be bad.

On the day mentioned above, when the (highly inaccurate) forecast said we had lots and lots of rain coming, I ran out and bought hose to let me pump down the pond in advance, and again in the middle of the night if needed. My experience told me that could be a real necessity.

In the weeks since we’ve had a fair amount of rain, and on a couple of occasions I have rolled out the hose in preparation for pumping water out of the pond to avoid issues, but I haven’t actually had to do it.

And in the last week or so we have had a series of storms come through that have collectively dropped something like another 10 cm (4" or so) of rain on our place, and yet the pond has not overflowed. It hasn’t even overfilled. Instead it seems to get to a particular level and stay there, as if any excess water was draining off. But where is all that excess water actually going, and why did it clearly overfill (beyond the level it is at now) when I was using the hose but doesn’t overfill with rain? I wish I knew.

Perhaps there is a drain or overflow hidden behind some of the rocks in the pond. Anne thinks maybe she saw a low spot back there while working on something the other day, but it remains a mystery. And I still don’t know if I need to roll out the hose for a given round of storms or not.

But that isn’t all there is to the water feature this week. It’s fall, as you know, and there are many trees on the property, including a lovely Japanese maple right over the pond. On the morning of November 15th, it looked like this:

I took that picture because I thought the leaves — both in and around the pond — were quite pretty, but you can’t leave them there. They turn into decaying mush, cloud the water, and clog the pump. We have a long handled net to scoop them out of the pond, but this was quite the overnight accumulation.

Or so I thought.

Two mornings later, we found this:

Note the confused canines trying to figure out if they can walk on all those leaves or not. You can see a bit of water at the lower left, where Skookie is looking, but the rest is covered in leaves. It actually looks solid in places, as if you could walk on it. I was waiting for Cruzer — the dumbest dog we have — to give it a try, but he’s too skittish to attempt it.

As I say, we have a net to scoop leaves out, so here is an action shot of Anne doing exactly that:

And what do you do with all those leaves?

Why, you put them in a pile of course, and a couple of days later you rake them up (still sopping wet because it hasn’t stopped raining in 48 hours) and put them into the green waste bin for the garbage service to haul away and recycle.

The moral of the story — for those considering creating water features of their own — is to avoid deciduous and messy plants above and around them. They will make a lot of extra work for you. In truth you will probably spend a few minutes a day — or more — skimming out leaves that have blown in regardless, but this sequence of photos shows it is possible for keeping your pond clean to be a lifetime project. Please learn from our example and avoid this sort of thing.

Finally this week I have a mystery. I paused while writing this post to step outside and bring in the garbage can. In doing so I found a bag of muffins left on our porch anonymously. I have no idea who the baker is. I don’t even know if muffins were left for other houses in the neighbourhood or just us. It’s the best kind of question to have, and it tells you something of the neighbourhood we live in. Thank you, whoever you are!

Take care, everyone! With luck the end of the pandemic is just starting to come into view. Stay safe and sane until that has happened, please!



Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.

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Jeff Powell

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.