Spring Flood

It’s that time of year when the Rideau River’s ice is melting – it begins in the channel with a sliver of water peaking through. I always notice the melted ice in the channel first down by the bridge to town. Over the next few days, it slowly makes it’s way up to our place and beyond. Then usually the ice at the edge of the riverbank begins to melt and leaves a small ribbon of water. Huge ice flows shift from one side of the river to the other depending on which way the wind is blowing them.

My dock begins to rise with the water and bob in eager anticipation!

1 2017

2017

This year, it became cold and winter-like after spring ice break-up commenced and the whole river froze over again. We’ve had a bit more than the average total snowfall this winter (around 235 cms). It didn’t take long, though, for the thin ice in the middle channel to begin to thaw and water flowed once again.

A few weeks ago, it looked like this spring would be an average melt considering we had a very slow warm-up and the snow was melting a bit every day. Then the rain started. And it rained for several days. One day alone, we had 36 mm of rain added to the 30+ mm we had the day before (2.5+ inches).

The trouble with so much rain here on the river, is that the ground is still frozen and the river still has ice along the shoreline this year. When we get that much rain in the region, it all flows to the rivers and creeks. These waterways have no choice but to overflow. The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority issued a Flood Warning for our area a few days ago. The river is 2 meters (6.5+ feet) above normal level.

The other day when I woke up, the river’s banks had overflowed about 15 feet and the river was considerably higher – I could see my dock floating way above winter levels. My riverside flagpole and flag were gone, likely knocked over by the sheet of ice. The next day, the water had come a third of the way up my yard. A few hours later, it crept halfway up. It ended up 3/4 of the way up my yard.

We’ve always been spared from any river flood damage because our house was built on a one meter (3 feet) pad of earth. During the great 100 year flood of 1976, all the roads around our place were under water and our place stood out like an island (this was before we moved here in 1981). One old timer said Reeve Craig Road used to be called ‘Puddle Alley’ for obvious reasons.

2 2008

2008

In 2008, we had another ‘hundred year flood’ after a record-breaking winter snowfall – they might want to correct that phrase to reflect the fact that these floods are happening way more often than every 100 years. In 2014, it happened again. My grandkids thought it was great to canoe ‘on the grass’ in Gramma’s backyard!

My sump pump has been working overtime! What the heck is a sump pump you ask? Well, it’s a water pump inside a 3 foot pit in my basement where the ground water around my house flows into a perforated tube buried around the perimeter and drains into the sump pit. My basement has always been dry other than the time the sump pump failed to turn on…….

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Great Blue Heron on dock

The water has finally started to recede now! This is monumental in ‘flood warning’ mode. All the ice seems to be gone from ‘the long reach’, which is the term given to my neck of the woods (it’s the longest stretch between locks – read more here). This morning, I was treated to one of my top 5 sights: my ‘lake of shining waters’ where the water sparkles like a million diamonds in the sun. Oh, I just LOVE seeing this! (I wrote about it here) I watched a beaver sitting on a small ice flow as it made it’s way down the river; several Great Blue Herons flying along the shoreline likely looking for a nesting place; and lots of ducks.

4 Lake of Shining Waters

My Lake of Shining Waters

Spring has literally sprung!

New Deck

When we moved into this house in 1981, there was a small deck out back overlooking the river. In 1990, we enlarged it considerably (17 feet by 32 feet) to accommodate our growing family and friends. About 10 years later, we replaced the top deck boards with spruce 2×6’s as they were beginning to rot but kept the framing. That was over 15 years ago and the deck boards were now in bad shape > so bad in spots, that my daughter Nellie thought I might fall through and break a leg any time! So she texted her brother Darin and told him that they had to do something! Then she told me that Darin and her were going to build me a new deck.

1old-deck

old deck

 

Okay, I thought, yes they are right – that deck is in bad shape when I have to tiptoe on the nails to avoid stepping on the rotten spots! Yup, I had to admit it: I needed a new deck. We began with a deck planning session where we finalized the design and some of the materials. I wanted an area right outside the mudroom door, big enough to open up the screen door and be able to pass through before going straight down any stairs. We also needed a big deck area for sitting out or eating but not as big as the current deck which could accommodate our neighbourhood. And I also needed to access my clothesline and have stairs on the other side as well. This time, I wanted to use the new, eco-responsible treated lumber so it would outlast me.  Then Darin and I went to Home Depot to pick up some of the deck blocks and materials for the framing to get things started. Over the months of construction, I purchased material from both of our small town lumber companies to support the local economy.

We began one beautiful sunny weekend with ‘Deck Demolition Day’: Nellie, Darin, my 12 year old granddaughter Kalia, and I worked ALL day! Darin cut the 16 foot deck boards into three pieces with while Nellie and Kalia diligently removed all the old nails. We had the old deck down and the old deck boards stacked neatly beside the firepit at the river by suppertime.

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During demolition, we discovered that some of the ledger board (the 2″x10″ board attached to the house which the deck is attached to) under the mudroom door was rotten. So we spent another entire day repairing this and the adjoining mudroom walls. There is still more work to do in that area but we had to focus on the deck knowing that it’s a project for next year.

During the week, I spent every day moving the composted leaves that had been under the old deck down to my garden – 19 wheelbarrow loads!

 

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The next weekend my son Melvin and and his girlfriend Cassidy joined Darin, 11 year old granddaughter Livi, Nellie, and I to begin the process of rebuilding. We had to measure everything out and place the cement deck blocks in place. We decided to go with free-standing deck blocks instead of digging down 4 feet through large tree roots. Each three foot deck post and all the framing had to be precisely measured and leveled. The kids worked well together like a well-oiled machine on the new deck while Livi and I did things around the yard like pick raspberries for lunch (I think we actually ate more on the spot); made lunch; made another little bridge for the back of the pond because the other one had rotted (we used two of the old deck boards that were in good shape); set up the badminton net; and played badminton for hours. And the girls played with the new kittens.

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Livi multitasking

 

Darin set up the table saw out front of the garage for cutting all the wood that was sitting in the driveway. Cassidy even got a lesson and an opportunity to use the table saw. Livi also took time out to be the painter who coated the end cuts of the deck wood with special paint to protect them. Darin, Melvin, and Nellie attached all the deck hangers and supporting cross pieces which took a LOT of time. But finally, the framing was all done and we were ready to begin applying the deck boards next time.

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The next weekend we stated the decking. Each piece had to measured twice and cut once (as my FIL used to say). Livi applied the paint to the end cuts then I carried each deck board through the garage to the backyard. Finally, I was able to do something besides play badminton, eat raspberries, and make lunch!! Darin and Nellie steadily screwed down all the deck boards – boy, there were a bunch of them! We worked all day over two Saturdays and got almost all of them in place so we were actually able to stand on the new deck! And I was able to hang out my laundry for the first time all summer! And the best part was that I didn’t almost fall off the deck while putting clothes on the line because of the rotten board and the fact that the I had to lean out to reach the line before.

5playingaround

always time for playing around

 

All that was left were the two staircases. Darin has a special tool to measure out the angle which we penciled on to the board. Then he cut out the risers with Nellie and I holding the board. Three per staircase, so 6 risers. And two deck boards per stair. Finally, the whole deck was done! I have to thank my DIL Amanda who brought down supper a few weekends. Darin and Nellie rocked! They worked long days each weekend to “get ‘er done”. My granddaughters worked hard too, and best separately and away from each other ;). Melvin’s strength was a bonus as he carried all those heavy deck blocks from the front of the house to the backyard.

7framingdone

 

One of the first things I did, was sit outside on the deck with a cup of tea looking at the water, birds, and my back yard. I love that I can walk right around the deck now because it’s two feet shorter – I don’t have to go all around the chimnea fireplace to get to the other side of the house.  Nellie helped me move my big planters of spider plants outside to the edge of the deck and I took out the small outdoor table and a couple of chairs.

8done

 

Initially, I had planned to put lattice screens up along the base of the deck to hide the framing underneath but I changed my mind because it really looks nice, considering there’s a lot of money in that frame. So I’ve decided to transplant some garden plants underneath and along the edge. The other day, I planted some perennial geraniums and I have some real nice hydrangeas, hostas, and day lillies to add next spring. I also have some extra walkway ‘stones’ that my husband made years ago to put at the bottom of the stairs.

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That deck is so solid, if we ever had an earthquake, the house might fall down but the deck will be left standing!

Dear Lawn Tractor,

 

Thank you for your 21 years of service to our family. Every time you cut the grass for me, I get to ride on you while the breeze cools me, watching the sparkling river, seeing how my garden is growing, or looking at the fish as we zoom past the pond. I’m grateful every time you start without complaint.

LawnTractorWM

 

I apologize for ignoring your needs especially over the past 8 years. I’m sorry for not changing your oil for 10 years. I’m so grateful that even with such inexcusable treatment, you still keep on going. Well, I did sort of have an excuse because I couldn’t get your oil plug off – it was screwed in SO tight by Chris that I didn’t have the strength to undo it. But yesterday, I was determined!

OilPlugWM

Removing Oil Plug – it helps having the right tool!

 

Luckily, my motto is “never give up” so I put all my brute force behind it, with echos of Chris saying “give ‘er!” and reminding me in my thoughts to just ‘force it’. Well it worked! And I felt the screw budge and finally start to turn! Eureka! It helped finding the right tool that would fit in the slot (among the hundreds of options I had in Chris’ tool chest). So now your engine can bath in fresh new 5W30 oil instead of that black stuff that came pouring out – all 4 liters of it……… sorry I overfilled your oil. You don’t have to apologize to me for not wanting to keep running especially when I kept adding oil beyond the safe limit.
I know you have more energy now too! That new battery must feel like a Red Bull energy drink! I realize that when you refused to start last September you were just putting your foot down and begging me to pay attention. I’m really glad that you continued to work through the long summer without much complaint even though you had every right to quit. Thanks for going on strike so I would be forced to attend to your needs.

AirFiltersOldNewWM

Left:  old air cleaner.  Right:  new air cleaner

 

Did you notice that I put in a new air cleaner? And a new fuel filter? And a fresh new spark plug? I’m sure you did because you ran SO smoothly when I cut the grass last night I almost felt that you were dancing for joy!
I was glad to clean up around your insides of all the debrise and oily dirt. And I dusted off your outside too. I promise to give you a wash soon.
My dear lawn tractor, you have been a vital part of this family helping to maintain our property over the years. You go girl! (Of course you’re a girl with THAT much stamina)

 

backyardWM

Backyard at sunrise

Spring Flood

 

I live on an island! Well actually, I didn’t win a lottery and go out and buy a tropical island. The great spring thaw happened and MADE my house appear to be on an island surrounded by water! Last week, we had two feet of snow on the ground and even more if you add the 3+ feet drifts in some spots. Then the temperatures began to rise above zero celsius (32F) ……… way above normal. And within 2 days, most of the snow has melted! That translates into flooding. Everywhere. Our area has been issued a Flood Warning (ya, no kidding). Snow pack from forests, ice on rivers, and rainfall have combined together to suddenly create flooding in Eastern Canada. It’s not just in my area – many places are under Flood Warnings as rivers, creeks, and lakes overflow their banks. Here, the river ‘bank’ is now 30 feet from my house instead of 200+ feet. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning. The weather forecast is for heavy rains for the next few days. We have been warned (again) to brace for further flooding and prepare for the worse.  This is worse than the 2nd Hundred Year Flood in 2008.

April 12, 2014 Backyard Flood

April 12, 2014 Backyard Flood

Yesterday was quite calm and the water looked like glass. By the middle of the day, I could see the still-frozen ice on the river begin to move away from the shoreline. A pair of Mallard Ducks were swimming in backyard and a Great Blue Heron stood guard on top of the dock. My grown kids decided to go canoeing after the long (way too long) winter of frozen river. Thankfully, they didn’t have to walk down to the beach to retrieve the canoe because Taylor dragged it up almost to the house last fall. They only had to use a use a shovel as a paddle to get to the shed down by the water, where the paddles were stored (note to self: bring a paddle up to the garage next fall). Marty and Jeanette paddled down to Private Prop which was a lake in itself. The even watched a beaver playfully swimming on the grass, a.k.a. flooded field. The cement picnic tables were almost under water too. They enjoyed a unique paddle through the surrounding forest where Marty was able to photograph amazing orange ‘fungi’ seemingly ‘growing’ on the ice. Later after supper, Marty and Taylor canoed from the house down through the yard (watch it here) and out to the swamp towards the bridge. They saw several beavers, including the largest beaver Taylor has ever seen. One beaver swam right in front of the canoe so they got a real close encounter.

Taylor and Marty canoeing in our backyard

Taylor and Marty canoeing in our backyard

I waded down to the shed in my rubber boots, choosing the path that I knew was the highest in the yard. I wanted to check my lawn tractor and lawn mowers. Predictably, they were in about 4 inches of water. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my cell phone with me because I didn’t want to ruin it if I fell in the water and got a soaker. So I couldn’t call one of my kids up at the house to come help me. I managed to find the hydraulic lift, which was under water, and crank up the front of the lawn tractor to put something underneath to raise it a couple of inches. However, the mower deck was still under water on one side. Then I turned a couple of buckets upside-down and popped a wheelie with the push mowers and got them up on top and out of the water.
Today it’s much more threatening-looking. We had rain overnight. The wind has changed directions and the water, large ice chunks, and debris are now being blown in our direction right up on to the yard (we’ll see if anything interesting floats in like other peoples docks, which happened once, or even a boat – happened too). I can watch the chunky ice float slowly, almost frame-by-frame, down the river towards the city of Ottawa where it will empty into the Ottawa River which will empty into the St. Lawrence River.

Taylor canoeing up his bike

Taylor canoeing up his bike

Now here’s the kicker: the forecast is for heavy rains, even thunderstorms today and tomorrow. The prediction is that the humidex will make it feel like the high 20sC (80sF) but then on Tuesday, a cold front is slated to move in and it will feel like -10C (14F), yes that’s minus 10 celsius. Bizarre. Gee, I wonder if we’ll be able to skate instead of canoe in our yard this week??

In a few short weeks, it will look like this:

My 'Lake of Shining Waters' , Rideau River

Grammom vs. Oil Goliath

It’s true.  The rumours I heard about a nearby Natural Gas pipeline being converted into an oil pipeline are true – TransCanada Pipeline’s Energy East Project.  And I am horrified.   This aging pipeline passes under our Rideau River just a few kilometers downstream from my home.  Now that the shock has settled in, I’m fighting mad!  Just like a mother Grizzly Bear defending her cubs, I feel like I have to do my own little Grammom part to defend my children and grandchildren.  I won’t accept this quietly.

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The Energy East proposal is about converting a 50+ year old pipeline that was built to transport Natural Gas to an oil pipeline.  The purpose of this conversion is to pump over a MILLION barrels a day of thick (like pudding), toxic, Alberta tar sands bitumen oil through my area to St. John, New Brunswick.

This  pipeline discreetly passes under farmers fields and beneath the road leading to the nearest town a few kilometers up the road from me – it’s hardly noticeable!  It also passes under highway 416 unbeknownst to the thousands of vehicles that drive over it daily.  But the biggest, scariest part is that this old pipeline runs across the bottom of the Rideau River through Baxter Conservation Area, a sensitive ecosystem – which just happens to be too close for comfort to me.

Buried under Farmers' fields

Buried under Farmers’ fields

I could go on and on about the risks of this proposal.  First and foremost, is the very likely risk of a pipeline rupture creating a devastating oil spill either on land, underground, or in the precious river system.  Such a spill would kill our river (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) immediately and for future generations.  The impact of this cannot be underestimated.

It’s a nightmarish daydream to believe that this pipeline will increase our oil security.  This oil is slated for shipment to international markets at a premium price not to Canadians as the oil companies have erroneously allowed us to believe.  Canadians will end up paying more at the pumps because our oil will command more costly OPEC prices.  Shouldn’t we be trying to be more carbon neutral rather that carbon gluttonous?  Do the intelligent specimens in the corporate offices understand that their product is a major contributor to climate change?  Did the 2013 downtown Calgary flood (where their head offices are located) or the “hundred year” weather-every-ten-years, stimulate their curiosity?  Everything is out of whack and this pipeline proposal for more, more, more oil just exacerbates the world’s negative climate change condition.

pipeline

I’m sure you’ve heard of the XL pipeline proposal which was slated to go from Alberta through the United States to the Gulf of Mexico until citizens made it an election issue and the whole deal was postponed.  Around that time, Enbridge’s westward Gateway pipeline proposal received opposition from citizens, governments, and native groups in British Columbia, putting that project on hold.  So going east was the only way that TransCanada Pipeline could go now that it is backed into a corner.  Company profit is a huge motivator.

So the ordinary citizen has been motivated too.  One of my favourite sayings is from Margaret Mead:  “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  Groups and people like me are rallying against the oil pipeline:  Ecology Ottawa, Sustainable North Grenville, The Green Party of Canada, and Rideau River Friends Against the Oil Pipeline , to name a few.   And we’re just getting started…… There are petitions to sign, rallies to attend, protests to support, etc.

Personally, I’ve signed the petitions and plan to attend rallies and local ‘open houses’ hosted by TransCanada Pipeline or Sustainable North Grenville / Ecology Ottawa.  In addition, I am making a large 4×8 sign to hang on a tree at my river’s edge which simply says “Stop the Oil Pipeline” inside a large red ‘stop circle’.  Thousands and thousands of people use the river during the summer boating season and the winter snowmobiling season.  Many of them might not be unaware of the impending disruption to their peaceful lives with this disastrous pipeline proposal.  It’s my duty to bring it to their attention.  I’ve written my local municipal counsellor to ask him where HE stands on this pipeline proposal…………let’s just say he’s not getting MY vote next election!   I plan to write to my provincial and federal elected officials as well and let them know that I will put my next vote where it counts:  against the Energy East oil pipeline.

Sunrise

Silence

 

Silence. That’s something I haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing too often! But really, is there any such thing?
This morning I sit here writing and I can see in my peripheral vision, the sparkling water of my beloved river, dancing like diamonds, silently reflecting off my glasses and clothes. I look up and I’m blinded for a moment by the extreme white patch on the river where the rising sun reflects off the flowing waters. In a few moments, the sun will have moved higher in the sky and the harsh, blinding white will become calm, sparkling water.

My 'Lake of Shining Waters' , Rideau River
I can hear the 2 clocks ticking around me as I sit here writing in the early morn. One clock rests on the cold wood cookstove, patiently waiting for me to paint the bathroom so it can take its rightful place again above the mirror. Hearing its ticking every second reminds me of life – one breath, one heart beat at a time – one that you can’t take away, give away, or take back….. each one at a time. That second is in the past before you know it and the next one is here before you’ve had a chance to think about it – regularly….. at exactly the same interval.

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As I sit here in my world’s silence, I’m greeted by the other clock’s bird chime on the hour – this hour being a black cap Chickadee call, one of my favourite birds. Then a real Blue Jay outside squawks to let me know he’s back. Around here, the Blue Jays seem to go into the woods for the summer. They come back in September to help me ‘clean up’ the fallen apples scattered over the grass and gardens. Their shrill call sounds bossy and dominant.
Soon I’ll be hearing the crackling of the fire in my wood cookstove while leaves fall and touch the metal roof quietly. Silence is a myth. Quiet is rare but enjoyed when I have the pleasure of experiencing it once in a while.

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My ‘Lake of Shining Waters’

This morning when I woke up, I was greeted with one of my ‘Top Ten’ favourite sites to see in the whole wide world :  my ‘lake of shining waters’.  No, it’s not the lake from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables .  It’s the Rideau River out in my backyard, freed from winter’s ice and greeting me with light sparkling like diamonds dancing off its surface.

My 'Lake of Shining Waters'

My ‘Lake of Shining Waters’

It’s a joy to behold after a long winter.  It’s the promise of spring and summer to come  (even though we’re supposed to get 15 cms (6 inches) of snow tomorrow.  Ugh!  Oops, I’m sorry – I promised I wouldn’t mention the “S” word anymore this spring).  Every single time I see that sparkling water, I’m reminded of Anne of Green Gables  – it’s why I call this beautiful site, the Lake of Shining Waters.  My oldest daughter Kristi and I used to watch the Anne of Green Gables movie in the 1990’s as well as all the sequels, over and over again.  We loved it SO much that when we went on a road trip to the maritimes in 1997, we HAD to visit the Anne of Green Gables home (National Historic Site) in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island ( http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/pe/greengables/index.aspx ) and the  nearby ‘White Sands Motel’ (officially known as Dalvay-by-the-Sea).

Anne of Green Gables house, Cavendish, PEI

Anne of Green Gables house, Cavendish, PEI

I was beginning to wonder if the river’s ice was ever going to let go this spring!  It seemed to be taking a lot longer this year – last year’s break-up was a full 3 weeks earlier.   The channel in the middle of the river is the first to show water in a tiny sliver.  As the days go by, this ribbon of water gets wider and the ice along the shoreline begins to melt.   Lately, we’ve had a few very windy, rainy days which always help it along.  A few nights ago, there still seemed to be alot of ice right out to the channel, but when I woke up the next morning after a night of rain, the ice was all gone!  I guess that the increased water level helps too.

When I took some photos this morning, I was even more blessed with one of my ‘top ten’ favourite sounds:  the whistle of a distant train.  I doesn’t get any better than that!

My 'Lake of Shining Waters' , Rideau River

Summertime

 

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