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Harry

Vancouver Diary XIII

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Harry

Vancouver Diary XIII: Winter '07

Welcome to the Thirteenth Season of Vancouver Diary.

The vertical rays of the sun fall on the Tropic of Capricorn near the Sandrivier north of Pietersburg at 4:22pm Pacific Standard time today, 21 December 2006. This is the precise moment of the Northern Winter Solstice and signals the formal start of the first day of Winter 2007 in Canada. At 12 noon today the sun will rise above the southern horison of Vancouver by a miserable 17.5 degrees and today will be the shortest day of the year, with tomorrow also pretty short. Since the rays of the sun have to penetrate a lot of atmosphere at a slanted angle to reach us now, they are rather feeble. HOWEVER, from here on the days get longer!! I like that!

I'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and all the very best for a very Happy and Prosperous New Year, whatever their religious convictions or faith may be.

winter06.jpg

Those interested in the Winter Solstice, can read more about it HERE and HERE.. However, nothing makes the whole issue quite as clear as the two incredible photos on THIS SITE.

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Adele

Thank you Harry for your dedication to the Diaries.

They are becoming the recommended "Daily reading" for everyone.

But I need to ask if it is a typo or if it is something I am not reading correctly when you mention 2005.

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Liz

Seeing as I couldn't reply about the pellet stoves etc...on the other topic...hope you don't mind me replying here. We have/had two open fireplaces. We put a pellet insert in the basement and if it's on 'full blast' it should heat up most of the house. Works pretty good as it heats up fast, and they used the existing chimney for that.

Upstairs we kept the open fireplace...it has a heat-a-lator (not sure about the spelling) It works like a dream! Had the fireplace going last night, and it warmed up the whole living room (which is a good size) and all the bedrooms upstairs.

At least we can save a bit on the oil....

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Harry

So, where has Harry been...?

1. Finishing off the year at work under some pressure

2. Surviving a power blackout that had us freezing at 5C at night

3. Fixing up the floors of the house, 6-1/2 years after buying it.

1. Item 1 is uninteresting here.

2. Item two was quite impressive.

I have seen enough to invest in a minimum power generator just to keep the furnace turning over. Furnaces "shut down the flame" if there is no electricity to drive the fan to circulate the heated air. In our case, I recharged the cellphones and my two cordless drills from a 120V inverter I have in the car...another good item to invest in here. We could also watch TV now and then using the 150W of the little inverter.

I had had the sense to keep two regular phones in the house. They were the only ones working through the power failure. We were off from around 4 am on Friday morning until 10am Sunday....two veRRRRRRy cold nights. On Friday night we all ate out at the White Spot....so did most of the North Shore. The waiting line for food was one hour at one point.

That Friday night Deep Cove also got a freak snowfall that occurred nowhere else around Vancouver. In fact, we got close on three inches! That equates a heavy fall by Vancouver standards. When we woke up the Saturday morning, it was snow everywhere. It melted very quickly though. The following shot was taken later the day..that snow is literally 3' to 3'6" above my head where I sleep.:

6-12-21power1.jpg

That Saturday night the temperature dropped to 5C in the house. That was rather bitter. As it is, we were sleeping on a floor where I had just stripped all the carpeting on the Thursday...just in time for the power blackout....not fun....and that's my cue for the third point above:

3. Item 3: Some two months ago in October we went to Home Depot and arranged to have the house carpeted. However, since I knew that all the floors were creaking and squeaking like crazy, I was hell-bent on screwing down these floors everywhere. So, in late November I started from a side with the house and stripped carpets. I then would search for the joists and tie the old fir floor down to either the sub-floor, or, where possible, all the way through to the joists. I spent around $200 on 2-1/2 inch floor screws.

At first I thought I should use seriously expensive screws with tiny heads that are not so visible. However, after stripping a few of those, I gave up trying to save that floor for posterity and started chasing serious screws through that floor. In most areas every single floor plank has now been screwed down all the way to the joists. The house is squeak and creak-free.....but I am literally 10 Kg lighter. This is in part because I cut bread and potatoes from my diet, but mostly it is because I physically wore myself down to the base of my soul. In the evenings I could hardly get out the staircase to the bedroom.

I would have to drill from the top, go to the crawl, search for the screw and then re-aim it to hit the joists. Then I had to try and "triangulate" where the particular 1-1/2" joist ran. UP the stairs...down the stairs...up the stairs...down the stairs. Anyway, the job is now done.

The goal was to have floors of all rooms screwed down and the staircases de-squeaked/de-creaked by 20 December. On that day, the Home Depot installers were arranged to start laying carpets. I had elected NOT to take their deal on removal of carpets and junk. How else would I get the chance to tie the floors down?.

SO, it is probably appropriate to show some before and after pictures. I know the ladies will say I should have had the old fir floor sanded down.....forget it. It was way too much "pulled" and generally tattered. Hence the choice of going for carpet. Also, the rooms are not square, so I did not want to do new hardwood or laminate....it would show up the skew lines too visibly....it had to be carpet.

SO, here's the "before" for the lounge. This is obviuouulsy after I had stripped out the pathetic old carpet that had gone green (!!??) everywhere the sun got to it. At one point I was worried that I had photosynthesis on my carpet (!!), but bleach did nothing to it...it was a chemical process in the fibre itself!!...weird!

6-12-21power2.jpg

Now, with the carpet redone, it looks like this:

6-12-21power4.jpg

The steep old staircase with greened aged waterfall style carpet, when stripped, revealed a creaking and squeaking old holiday bungalow staircase-structure. I chased 27 screws at strategic points into each of those 11 steps and then attacked the edges with shims. The old staircase is below ( terrible eh!?):

6-12-21power6.jpg

Today they finally completed the staircase....there is not a single squeak and not a single creak anywhere..."dit loop doeksaf". Now I can sneak downstairs at night for a snack without waking up the entire household....cunning plan, eh!? The installers commented on how incerdibly straight the staircase was...they don't build them like that anymore.

6-12-21power5.jpg

I guess I should mention that the house was formally registered in 1951, but I took a 1950 31 May newspaper out of a window sil when we put in windows. In the last two weeks I took a 1956 Vancouver Sun comic strip out from behind the baseboards ( skirting boards in SA). Last time this place got decent attention was the week when Elvis recorded Hound Dog in New York!!! When I stripped the carpet off the passage, I could see that there had been a lady with stilletto heels in the house at one point ( around 1956?)...she had decimated the fir floor planks! She'd be around 80 now!!

Hopefully, this is the end of insane home renos for a while....I am physically worn out!

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Harry

I'm nearing the end of all the renos, so, yesterday I drove around Deep Cove just a little to look at the wind damage from the storm of two weeks ago.

Here are some pictures:

In some areas the trees were toppled right out of the ground, as in the following shot. Many people saw these particular trees on TV where they had collapsed on a tanker truck. The photos were also used on the CBC news to try and explain why the gasoline price suddenly rose 10% in Vancouver. As usual, the gas companies were a bunch of lying bastards. Like one stopped truck can change the economics of 2.5 million people...my #ss!

6-12-31wind.jpg

When I went past these trees, there was a guy with a Ford truck sawing these up to cart away.

The next shot shows the trees that fell over Dollarton Highway, taking our power with them in the process. Notice how many trees snap explosively above ground level. That's pretty scary, there is a massive release of pent up elsatic energy when that happens, and such a snapped tree will cleave through a house. In the previous shot there is another like that. Now look again.

6-12-31wind2.jpg

Lastly, a picture from the newspaper showing what has happened around here. It is pretty amazingthat no-one died directly as a result of the storm. The deaths came later when people died of CO poisoning from using generators in closed houses.

6-12-29tree.jpg

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Pierre

It looks cool to have these tall trees near a house... but I would be scared that they could fall onto my house. Perhaps one's house should be far enough away from a tree so that if it fell over it would not crash into the house.

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Harry

Pierre,

that would be pretty much impossible in North Vancouver...which is a rainforest.

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Liz

Harry, those photos remind me of what Halifax looked like after Hurricane Juan. I hope everything gets back to normal (or close to normal) as soon as possible.

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Harry

Liz,

the windspeed got up to 156kmph at the southern tip of Vancouver Island that night.

In Deep Cove, which lies at the bottom of an EAST-facing hill ( the wind is generally west-southwest and has to hit Vancouver Island first), I am aware of just one single massive gust in otherwise pretty much still air...but it hit our house like a truck. I suspect all the North Shore trees fell in that single gust..it really was as though something solid hit the house. The trees fell in groves in some places.

Certainly, Stanley Park will never be the same again.

At this point people are still carting broken trees and shrubs...the dump is impossibly busy....major traffic jams there.

Thing is, the weather is not really letting up. It is now early November since we last really saw the sun....and totday they forecast up to 6 inches of rain in places by tomorrow....with high winds.

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Gordon

Harry, I am a great fan of wood and I think that your stripped wooden floors looked quite good.....

5 degrees celsius - shame Harry, you have become too used to central heating. Here in SA where our houses are not designed for winter we regularly have to deal with those kind of temperatures on the Highveld or Free State..... However, I must admit, that it could not have been a pleasant way to start the New Year!

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Harry

Gordon,

I don't think you normally hit 5C INSIDE the house on the highveld. The 10-11C of the first night was handleable, but the second night at 5C was a tad rough on that "tapyt" vloer with zero means of generating heat. Our kaggel/fireplace is a flop...I have to check out what is wrong there...maybe a dead raccoon in the chimney :P. My other friends made fires...we could not.

As for the floors....I also love wood, but not when it looks like this close-up:

7-01-02floor.jpg

I also thought I'd share the cartoon I took out behind the baseboards:

6-12-28archie.jpg

Anyway, we have now had these storms, varying between torrential rain and hurricane strength winds, since 2 November....and the rest of this week will be overcast. This is by far the most miserable and depressing Fall/Winter we have had here yet....this being our seventh Fall/Winter in Vancouver. We've had more than 4 inches since yesterday.

That's why you guys don't see me posting pictures anymore...there is no light...the sky has been grey since 2 November...and the few moments it kinda opened up were very short-lived....and I was typically either at work or stuck in the crawl of the house.

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Blesbuck
Gordon,

I don't think you normally hit 5C INSIDE the house on the highveld.

Harry, we had 25mm rain and 0C on the first of August 06, and I measured 4C in the living room that morning. Walking outside on the solidly frozen lawn was quite strange

Preparing us for the weather over there solank? :P

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Cathy K

Harry, I wish we had a digital camera in 1995! Our little toeka-se-dae-huisie in Prince Albert had oregon pine floors and we have never seen floors is such a sorry state. They were warped and you walked barefeet on them at your peril - splinters and protruding knots like you couldn't believe! Nails were popping out all over.

Pierre set about replacing crooked nails en bashing the rest back into the wood. Then we had the floors profesionally sanded. I wiped them gently with a damp cloth (the whole house!) after which Pierre painted on something like Bourne Gleam (I think- high gloss polyurethane). We waited two days, sanded the floors by hand, and I was back on my knees with that damp cloth. This was repeated three times.

I think those floors were the reason we sold the house for more than a 100% profit. They literally glowed! Even our resident ghost haunted less, she must have been very pleased with the result of our hard work. :P

This weather is really getting to us all. We had a downpour during the morning, then the sun came oiut and it became quite balmy. Presently an icy wind is blowing......and we're back indoors. :D

Cathy K.

Edited by Die Kotzé's

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Karen

Hey lucky folk in Beautiful BC,

I am so excited! We managed to get a timeshare swop in Nanoose Bay, Vancouver Island the first week of June. I have no idea how good ( or bad) this resort is, but as long as it is clean, I will be happy. We will fly into Vancouver, hire a car and take the ferry over to Nanaimo. Hope to be able to meet some of you there and also some 'old' SA Canada buddies, too. The idea is get an a taste of island life to see if we could settle there one day when we retire ( and who knows when that will be?!!!). Our aim is to see as much of the island as we can in a week and to fly home very relaxed!

Meantime, happy New Year to all here. Can you believe it's January 2, and we in Ontario are still waiting for winter to arrive! No snow, no need for snow removal or snow tires. Going for my walk in regular walking shoes, not boots!!! Best I have experienced in 14 winters! Even if the cold and snow does make an appearance soon, it will be the shortest winter ever in Toronto for us.

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Moonstones

Harry I also beg to differ on the highveld winters ;)

We live on a plot in Pretoria East near Rayton. My cellphone has a thermometer and I checked it periodically when I got up in the morning (it was lying on my bedside table) - and 4 - 7 degrees inside was the average. :P

And Blesbuck - that week in August was probably the coldest I ever felt in SA! We left for a horse show in Natal early on that Thursday morning (after it snowed in Joburg on the wednesday) and I tell you, stopping to refuel at Villiers felt like -10!

Nice work on the carpets Harry! Hope the weather calms down for you and that you dont have the nearly 40 days and 40 nights of last winters rain :D

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johankok

Those whom travelled on bicycle to school in Sasolburg can attest to sub-zeros, and only being able to write after break. Here in Irene / Midstream / Kentron area, I've seen a good couple of sub-zero's in the past year, and close to that inside as well. Remember that most SA houses are not build for winter (nor for summer). The Bethlehem / Clarence / Belfast / Dordrecht and even Bloemfontein (sometimes) areas gets well into the sub-zeros in winter. My son had a winter swimming championships in Sasolburg, when it was -4 degrees (the pool was heated though)

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Cathy K

Told ye all it's not so cold in Canada! :P I have yet to freeze to death over here like I did on the Highveld! Vancouver is a place where you can still enjoy the outdoors, even when it's winter. (well...normally :D )

Our house temperature is on average about 24°C in the winter, except when we forget to turn off the gas fireplace when we go to bed at night. Then it feels like the tropics in the morning.

After a few years in Canada, most of us find it strange that South African homes are so ill designed for winters. Few of us will visit South Africa in the wintermonths, it's way too cold.

Karen, we're looking forward to meeting you.

Cathy K.

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Karen

Looking forward to meeting you too, Cathy and I hope I also get to see Debbie D, who I know lives in Nanaimo. I hope we can travel around and see a lot on the island in a week there.

Meantime, this morning Toronto will reach a high of 8C.It's bright and sunny with not a trace of winter except for bare trees.

I also would not visit Johannesburg in July- that highveld winter is way too cold to handle in unheated homes and I would need to buy winter pj's again! The thought of freezing cold toilet seats there is enough to keep me going back only in the summer!!!

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Harry

Moonstones & Blesbuck,

you want to try 5C at 90-95% humidity here in Vancouver. That is why we lay in the bed and blew steam at the ceiling...and walked on cold moist floors.

The Highveld winter has around 35% humidity, with cracked lips and bleeding noses....from dry air. I can tell you that becuase I had to buy humidifiers to run some electronic lab equipment that acted up in the low humidity in the 1980s. This is the reason folks in Winnipeg only feel the cold below -15C.

Thanks for the nice comments about carpets, Moonstones.

Johan,

I know the northeast Cape fairly well, and the Dordrecht-Molteno area has the reputation of being the coldest in SA ( The Weather Office will confirm that for you). Most of my experience is the nearby Middelburg Cape - Colesberg country and I will tell you that it did not get nearly "that cold" inside...by that I mean the overall chill factor.

Cathy,

my heart also broke when I started screwing down the floor, but after a while it was evident that it was going to be SO riddled with screws that would be nothing to save. I started with very expensive small-head screws, but the torque on them during the process was so great, that they often stripped. After hammering the second one over in frustration and disgust, I realised it was a lost cause. So I switched to heavy duty and very visible 2-1/2 inch screws and surrendered to the obvious....the days of that floor as a beautiful fir floor were over. Also, the lady with the stilletto heels in the 1960's killed the floor. Furthermore, the upper floor had lots of 3/4 inch plywood and the old lino "tapyt" could not be removed consistently. The conclusion was obvious and easy to make.

Karen, the nasty thing about the Highveld in winter is not the temperature.....it is

a] the temperature inversion that traps all the smoke on the ground to make the sky a pool of industrial murk and

b] the black fields from farmers burning the place to add to that murk....someone still has to explain that to me...I know the new grassshoots are green, but it really sucks the soil empty of any nutrients.

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johankok

Harry,

Dordrecht was the only place where I had a white christmass day in SA.

Edited by johankok

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Blesbuck
name='Harry' date='Jan 3 2007, 06:50 PM' post='67490']

Moonstones & Blesbuck,

you want to try 5C at 90-95% humidity here in Vancouver. That is why we lay in the bed and blew steam at the ceiling...and walked on cold moist floors.

The Highveld winter has around 35% humidity, with cracked lips and bleeding noses....from dry air. I can tell you that becuase I had to buy humidifiers to run some electronic lab equipment that acted up in the low humidity in the 1980s.

Which do you prefer ?

I knew a Scot who swore the bone dry Highveld winters were worse than Scotland's

This is the reason folks in Winnipeg only feel the cold below -15C.

Due to the high humidity ?

Karen, the nasty thing about the Highveld in winter is not the temperature.....it is

a] the temperature inversion that traps all the smoke on the ground to make the sky a pool of industrial murk and

b] the black fields from farmers burning the place to add to that murk....someone still has to explain that to me...I know the new grassshoots are green, but it really sucks the soild empty of any nutrients.

Die farmers wil ook graag weet hoekom die :( locals altyd jou veld aan die brand steek, veral op Sondagaande, sodat jy jou in jou pogings om jou laaste weiding te probeer red, nog 'n band of twee verloor weens stompe of klippe

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Harry

Blesbuck,

you can tolerate cold much better in a dry climate. So -20C in less humid Winnipeg is not as bad as -10C in humid Vancouver..stated to me by a born and bred Winnipegger. I don't mind the dry cold Highveld winter...I just hate its smoke and black fields.

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Alwyn

Speaking of travelling to school on bicycle. In Parys you have the hills and at the bottom the little water streams. Very refreshing feeling especially when you were dressed in cadette uniform :)

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debbieD

Hi Karen! It will be great to see you again. Nanoose Bay is a really pretty area, and not too far from Nanaimo. You have to let us take you out to dinner when you're here. How exciting! :D

As for the island this winter .... pretty much how Harry describes it for the mainland. :)

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