comes our way

Pigeon update. He/She is still here and happy and seems quite content to be held or wander alone in the shade of the flower garden.

When we first moved here, our propane was delivered to the property in 100 pound tanks for a 100% markup. Propane at the time was at $1.00 per pound and we paid $200.00 for the tanks to come to our door. We long ago discontinued that expensive service and the service has since been discontinued.

When E had to carry the tanks himself, he reduced their size to 40 pounds which still weighed 75 pounds for him to carry on and off boats, up and down ramps, in and out of trucks. It has worked well but the tanks themselves are expiring this July and they need to be recertified and re-cored. It seemed like a good time to reevaluate what size tanks we need or could make do with for the next ten years.

We have a lot of solar power in the summer. So much so, that, in effort to reduce propane usage (save money and E’s back) we have a real opportunity now to reduce the size of our propane tanks to 20 pounds. There are very definitely electric appliances which could take advantage of solar power in the summer months and save us some money.

In the winter, we get our hot water from a range boiler attached to the wood stove. But in the summer, we have had to switch to an on-demand propane heater. Not any more! On Friday we are picking up our new tankless electric hot water heater. It is 20″X14″X4″ and can easily fit in the utility cupboard where our batteries used to sit. (batteries are now in an insulated box on the deck).

Between the range boiler and electric water heater, our hot water should now, theoretically, be free year round. The fridge is powered by solar panels so no propane is needed for either of those utilities. This leaves us with cooking.

We were speaking with a neighbor last month who is an engineer and knows all things power related. He has been able to reduce his propane usage so much, they got rid of their stove completely.

We already have an electric coffee pot and an electric kettle but still need the propane stove for our cooking needs in the summer. In the winter, I use the wood stove as much as possible cooking our soups and stews, when I can, on the stove top. But we haven’t needed a fire for a month so have had to use the propane stove for all of our meal prep.

We sat down and examined how we could limit the use of the propane stove during the summer months.

We have ordered a rice cooker and also a countertop air fryer/ toaster oven combo. This appliance can apparently roast a five pound chicken, cook steaks, vegies, pizza, toast and cookies . I should easily be able to plan my cooking and baking needs around sunny days for probably five months a year using these two new appliances.

It won’t take more than one summer for these new additions to our system to pay for themselves. We are confident we can move down to 20 pound tanks in July when we have to turn these 40 pounders in.

The generator hasn’t been needed since May 5th and honestly I can’t see a need for it until October. So we aren’t needing any gas these days really, except for the truck.

If we are going to be able to live here until we are in our 80’s, we need the systems simple and the costs as low as possible. To do that, we need to make the most of what this property has to offer and in the summer months we have more sun that we know what to do with. This week we are going to try to use every bit of sun that

comes our way

he is hungry

After five days in town with the family, we are home. We returned to the island this afternoon, happy to be home but wishing we still lived around the corner from our kids.

Our sister in law, who was watching the dogs on the island, advised us that when she dropped them off at our house, she found a racing pigeon walking on the road at the foot of our neighbor Anne’s driveway.

Forewarned is forearmed so, when we came around the corner at Dead Truck Hill to find a racing pigeon walking up the middle of the hill, we weren’t alarmed. Impressed, sure, but not alarmed. We stopped the truck and I picked him up to return him to our garden. If there is one thing I have in my garden, it is bird seed, four types and for the moment, enough water for a pigeon.

I looked up on the google what to do when one finds a homing pigeon and it seems they are often hungry and thirsty. I gave him a few types of seed and a big bowl of water and set him in the shady area of the garden beside the pear tree support, just in case, you know, he/she is looking for a perch. He has been eating non stop since noon (7 hours). He seems healthy enough and content to hang out amongst the flowers.

We checked the tag on the bird’s foot and realized he came from Japan. Then we sent an email to the Japanese Racing Pigeon Association with the details from the bird’s tag. I got an email response almost immediately.

Thank you for your mail.

I think it probably arrived in Canada on a ship by accident.

We will inform the owner that it was found in Canada.

I am very grateful to you.

So one minute I am tracking down where a tagged sea lion came from (had more interest) and then today I am looking for the home of a wayward homing pigeon.

Not only did this pigeon walk 250 meters from Annes to the top of Dead Truck Hill between 10 am and noon but he did that after just travelling 5000 km from Japan.

No wonder

he is hungry

else is moot

The secret to my mental health, as I have found in life, is to compartmentalize my concerns. I call them concerns because they aren’t always crises, sometimes they are obligations, often just commitments but, whatever the term, we currently have a lot on our plate. Everyone does and that is why we all need to be kinder to each other. Every one of us is dealing with shit.

We hosted our second annual garden party/plant sale last Saturday and it couldn’t have gone better. Thirty friends came by to have a glass of wine in the garden, buy some plants and enjoy the company of like-minded neighbours while we welcomed the final arrival of spring. I sold or bartered for 100 tomatoes and, maybe, twenty five other plants (squash, marigolds). It was a lovely day but now that it is done, I have one less concern on my mind. I can then move on to the next concern.

It never fails to amaze me that I ordered seeds in December, after spending hours perusing seed catalogues and then those seeds, after they arrived, were planted in individual peat pots on the dining room table in February. They then became plants that grew to stand almost four feet high in the greenhouse and have now headed off to their new homes to hopefully provide my neighbours with all of the tomatoes that they will need this summer. It’s a tomato miracle.

For privacy sake you will have to imagine what Mary’s head looks like while you notice how tall the plants are!

I can see me growing plants again next year. Of course, I learn something new each year, so there are always new plants in the mix. This year the sweet potatoes are the big experiment. The proceeds of the sale pay for my costs but I don’t do it for money, I do it for fun. Hopefully I am growing plants which my friends want. If not, they should speak up! I will grow whatever they want, but for me it is something fun to do during the long dark winter months.

With the proceeds of last year’s sale, I was able to buy heating mats and grow lights so we are now well set up. This year’s money will go to purchasing more potting soil as I work toward improving my rose propagation skills. For me, it is all fun and fortunately I have amazing friends who support my habit.

We are also still deep in the aftermath of the fire we had in December. As you all remember, we lost most of our belongings which were stored in the workshop that burned down. Our house is small, with windows for walls, so seasonally, we would move unneeded items up to the workshop to make room for our immediate needs. For example our Christmas decorations were fortunately down at the house and safe but our kayaks, fans, tents, coolers and magnetic bug screens were in the shop along with all of E’s tools and 300 bottles of my wine. Forty years of photographs and memorabilia, high school annuals, framed paintings, E’s grandmother’s stamp collection and every possible construction bit and bob were also lost. The grandkids’ swing set, trampoline and high chair, all of it gone.

So now we are dealing with the insurance agency. I have to say, although it has taken a while to get going, they are being really supportive and understanding of the complications of rebuilding on an off-grid island. It was, after all, not our house, just the outbuilding which was destroyed and we are grateful that, although we lost a lot of things, they were just things. It sounds like the insurance will help us build a very small workshop for E. The building doesn’t need to have as much storage as was lost because we don’t have much to store any more, but E can design something simple which will serve him well. After all, ironically, once he builds his workshop most of his construction projects are finished. Until the insurance claim is all wrapped up and sorted, it is a concern on my mind.

When you have children, they will always be your primary concern whether they are 7 days, 17 months or 37 years of age. We raised three amazing children who have been basically on their own since they left for university at 18. Our direct involvement in their lives was then pretty much put on pause. But, just like E’s Dad was there for us twenty years ago when we needed him, we will put our lives on hold while one of our kids needs us.

Life does throw complications into one’s way and, if E and I have learned anything, it is how best to cope with stress. For us, it is as a family, meeting one challenge at a time. Our family is foremost in our minds and everything

else is moot.

We will grow

I have never needed to stake tomato starts, but they are getting so big I thought it was either add stakes to the greenhouse plants or start to get them planted in the garden.

Sure enough, this morning, I picked up a Lemon Boy tomato and it fell over and broke in half. Ugh. Random bamboo sticks in the shed were quickly put to use holding up the biggest ones for my friends, and I started to plant what I could of my own.

I arrived here eleven years ago, knowing nothing about growing veggies and, having never grown tomatoes before, I have had to learn a lot. This is how I plant them and it works for me in this garden. We are zone 8b. (I could actually argue zone 9)

The holes are deep. If you can’t dig yours in this deep, your option is to lay the tomato on its side when you plant it. All the little hairs on the stem will turn to roots when you get them under ground. The more roots, the stronger the plant. I have gorgeous soil .

Each tomato gets one handful of epsom salts, one large stake, one tomato cage and a drainage pipe with twelve drilled holes.

Epsom salts are scattered in the bottom of the hole and across the soil that is waiting to go back in the hole. I plant the post at the back, the tomato in the middle and the pipe at the front. The soil is returned to the hole and the cage is placed over the whole area with the pipe on the ground poking out for watering. During the summer, I fill the pipe with water every second day. The water goes straight to the roots where it is most needed.

During the winter I collect milk jugs and fill them with rain water off the roof of the bunkie. During the summer they are placed between the tomatoes to retain the day’s heat into the evening. In August, when my water is running low, I use the water in the jugs to water the plants. It is a useful, if unattractive system.

The vegetable beds are surrounded by flower beds to attract pollinators.

I planted 15 tomatoes today, with a few more to go tomorrow. Three types of beans are in the ground and looking great. Also two types of cabbage, three types of cauliflower, two types of beets, celery, brussels sprouts, garlic and onions. Really warm temperatures are on the way so it looks like we are in high gear.

In the greenhouse I still have two types of cucumber, spaghetti squash, zucchini and two types of pumpkin waiting to get big enough to plant..

Last year I had to delay the plant sale to the end of the month because it was so cold and the plants were so small. This year I could be giving most of them out now.

I have to say, I have a lot of fun growing the veggies from seed. Anyone might get the idea that E and I eat a lot of veggies. We don’t, but until I figure out how to grow chocolate or cheese this is what

we will grow

cup runneth over

If there is one thing we have here on this island during the best part of the year, it is muddy puddles. When our granddaughter visits us, she loves to jump in those puddles, no matter how small or large. While jumping she picks up and discusses life with the many worms she finds. Hours of endless entertainment can be found on this island for children of all ages. We are perfectly okay with the activities which she prefers because, as we tell her, if your clothes aren’t filthy at the end of the day you aren’t doing it right.

Spring is finally here. Daily temperatures in the mid teens are a welcome relief. Temperatures in the greenhouse are hitting 40 degrees by noon and I am finally able to open the windows to circulate some air and give the plants some “wind”.

The warmer temperatures were however too late for the cucumbers, I lost most. I should have kept them in the house on the heat mats longer. I will know better next year.

The Cinderella pumpkins and Spaghetti squash are doing fine. The peppers are behind the tomatoes but are all alive and great. With one exception. I decided at the last minute to grow a hot pepper and planted MacKenzie brand seeds which I had picked up at Canadian Tire. Giant Chili hybrid pepper and not one came up. So I have no Jalapeno peppers for my friends. I won’t be buying Mackenzie seeds again.

E has been slaving on a project which we have talked about for years. Recent events encouraged him to move it to the top of the to-do list.

When we moved here eleven years ago, E installed our propane system under the house. Four 40Lb propane tanks situated under the bedroom. It was less than ideal. The location required the transport of the 40lb propane tanks (72 lbs when full) down the hill and through a small narrowing under the house to a rocky shelf. Manoeuvring the tanks under the house is at the very least awkward. During the fire, our friend and neighbour helped me get them turned off and it was not easy. The set up has always needed to be changed and we couldn’t put it off any longer.

E has spent the last week digging a ditch up our driveway to the new generator shed. In the ditch there will be the water pipe taking the rain water from our catchment system up to the storage tanks. There will also be wiring to power any future driveway lighting system, the cable which links the generator to the house panel, the wire connecting the bunkie subpanel to the house power and the copper gas tube from the propane tanks at the generator shed to the house. It’s a big ditch and it has been a big job. But the ditch is dug and the propane has been relocated. All there is to do now, is to fill the ditch and move on to the next urgent project.

The propane tanks are now situated half way up the hill, far away from the house with easy access by truck on the driveway if and when we are old and unable to carry them. Honestly, it was a job we are really happy to see done, and it didn’t really cost more than the copper pipe, a week of E’s time and a bottle of Tylenol for his back.

On the nature channel we have a ton of herring in front of the house. Presumably, these are the babies from the spawn up island a month ago. The sea lions are still hanging around and as long as there is food here for them, I guess they will remain.

The two eagles who have lived next to us since we got here had babies last year. Two eaglets are common, three are less so and four babies have been recorded but are rare. We have had an enormous amount of eagle activity lately and it just seemed like there was a lot of juvenile shenanigans going on. Tonight I was able to finally get a picture of the kids together, quadruplets, amazing.

I spend the majority of my day in the garden but I also spend a great deal of time searching the google for new and better ways of living and gardening off the grid. This week I came across a woman who searches her property after rains for worms. She lifts pots and logs and hunts through muddy puddles just like my grand daughter, but unlike my granddaughter, she doesn’t play with the worms, she transports them to her vegetable garden. Brilliant idea! What better way to improve the soil than adding more worms. You will now find me, after a rain, walking about the property gathering worms for my garden.

I pride myself on the ability to moderate my work effort and, although I am up in the garden by 8 am, and I only toil in the soil for 1/2 hour before I then sit for the equal amount of time, I then enjoy the birds and the bees and the flowers and the scents and the possibilities. By 2 pm when I head down to the house for lunch, I can then relax again, because my

cup, as they say, runneth over.

called Naked Bear

It has been eleven years ago today since we began our off grid adventure and spent our first night in this house on this island. I awoke this morning to a text from Word Press telling me that this blog had just reached the milestone of 100,000 views.

I began sharing my stories when we first moved here, originally to keep my Mom up to date on our life, but then it evolved to keeping in touch with old friends and making new while recording our journey. Wow, haven’t we had a journey. There have been 964 posts covering a variety of topics. Everything from unique moments on the nature channel to major renovations, heart transplant milestones and a horrifying fire. There have been 30,023 visitors and I think I have tried to quit the blog itself, four times. Most of you don’t comment but I know you are out there and I really appreciate those of you who financially support the blog to keep it advertisement free.

When not staring out the windows, the garden, of course, is my favorite place to spend time. My current project is growing the seeds for the summer vegetable garden. The cabbage, both red and green, have now been moved to the garden, as have the three colours of cauliflower.

The tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkin and squash are still in the greenhouse. Last year I tried to grow pepita pumpkins. Their seeds are hull-less and more suitable for roasting for salads and snacking. It was a disaster, none came up. I ordered more Pepita this year as well as another type of hull-less pumpkin. Only one Pepita came up but four of the other. I am really looking forward to roasting my own green pumpkin seeds, so fingers crossed.

With any luck there will be lots of plants to share with friends at my second annual garden party. All of the plants have now been moved out of the house, and heating pads and grow lights to the greenhouse. They are easily a month ahead of where we were last year.

E is plugging away at his ditch. As part of the project to move our propane away from the house and bury all of the pipes and wires out of sight, a ditch needed to be dug from the house to the new gen shed. Not an easy job to do. Big rocks, old back, you get the drift. Slow going but he is almost there.

The blog post with the most reads over the last eleven years was titled Naked April. I guess searching naked off grid is a popular thing to do. Let’s see how we do if I tell you that the new pepita style pumpkins I am growing this summer are

called Naked Bear.