Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s song rings as true today as it did when the Drifters had a hit with it in 1963. In the summer we live on our roof. It’s a little like a cottage, except open to the elements. It’s not grand. The decking is basically wooden pallets. The furniture is rustic. But the view is terrific – downtown Vancouver and the North Shore mountains. It’s a great place to start or end the day, and it really is an escape from “...all that rat race noise down in the street.”
The dog likes it up there too. He lets the sun soak into his old bones for an hour or two, then retires to his cozy corner behind the hydrangea and oleander, where there is shade for most of the day.
On the roof we get whatever sun there is, so we can grow all kinds of flowers, including roses, lilacs, lavender, budleaia, lupins, hydrangea and sweet peas, all of which blossom profusely. Except for a few tiger swallowtails, the butterflies didn’t come to the butterfly bush this year. But the bees came in their numbers to all the flowers, with the honeybees and bumblebees muscling out the wasps and hornets for a change. There was much pollination and the lupins, carried lovingly as seed from PEI, were prolific with seed pods.
For years I have tried growing a kitchen garden on the roof -- lettuce, basil, tomatoes. I offer them good organic soil, natural fertilizer, compost and an inordinate amount of tender loving care. Even so, this year’s red tongue lettuce crop is barely enough for a small salad. For one.
The ants are back – tiny black ones this year. They return every evening to the same spot, no matter how much they are gently dissuaded with a whisk broom. Last year we found quite a large and thriving carpenter ant colony under the decking. According to the internet, which has all the information you need, the best non-pesticide treatment for ants is boiling water. Repeat as necessary. A little Biblical, perhaps, but there it is. I’ll keep at it with the whisk broom for a while yet.
In the late summer and fall the spiders set up intricate webs overnight on the roof, visible only because they’re spangled by the morning dew. Sometimes the webs are attached to moveable objects like chairs, and get destroyed, only to be rebuilt the next night. Then sometime in mid October, the webs are abandoned and slowly drift to tatters.
There are plenty of tall trees around, and a surprisingly vibrant bird population, given that we’re practically in the middle of the city. There are the usual gulls, crows and pigeons. But bats, hummingbirds, hawks and herons also make regular appearances.
We don’t see many stars from the roof – too much light pollution. We do get a lot of air traffic, though – float planes, Coast Guard helicopters buzzing to and from the hospital up the hill, giant jets that deploy their reverse thrusters as they approach YVR. The other day we watched a stunt pilot do vertical stalls and suicide dives just before the fireworks show on English Bay. A few years ago we watched the space station vault overhead.
The roof is only five stories up – low enough even for someone as acrophobic as me. But it’s just removed enough from street level to give a little perspective on the passing parade. We feel pretty lucky to live here.