Use more firewood

A lot of my baby plants and cuttings have now been moved into the new greenhouse.

One of my ongoing jobs right now, in between chasing a three year old and the puppies, is to sift through our full compost bins. Last week I came across the January prunings from my Peace rose. One of the branches wrapped in compost had live buds on it, so I popped it into a pot. Then I decided to take cuttings of everything I could. Dogwood, Flowering cherry, Fig, Fuschia, Hydrangea… everything.

I figured that, if the plants lived, it would be fun and, if they didn’t, no loss.

So now I will be taking my clippers with me everywhere I go, snipping branches from my friend’s gardens and plopping them into my experimental pots.

E stained the exterior cedar boards today, so I feel it might be time to give you a peek at the greenhouse progress.

Didn’t I tell you the garden is my church…

Although it is sunny these days, it is friggin’ cold. The wind is coming right at us, all day. We have gone through a lot of firewood this winter, way more than we have ever used.

The greenhouse really does have a lot more sun than this picture indicates, it was taken at the end of the day. But it could have more. In the summer we have plenty of sun but there is a tree or two which could be taken down to improve the hours the greenhouse receives in the spring. Fortunately, we can always

use more firewood

much to ask

Four nights in the most beautiful city in the world and we spent most of it in our Vancouver hotel room. No fancy restaurants with friends or dinners out with our family. Just room service delivered to our door in cardboard boxes.

Covid protocols were strict at the four star hotel across from the hospital where E had to have his annual testing. Only two people allowed on an elevator at one time. Masks worn at all times everywhere in the hotel but our room. Cleaning staff never came into our room. We would bundle up garbage or linen as necessary and leave it in the hall outside our door. A call to room service and it was picked up immediately. Things have changed out there in the world and it has been easy to forget, living on this island.

Normally, I would go into the hospital and wait with E during his annual testing. Not this year. I waited in our hotel room and, when he needed company to walk back safely, I was given a fresh mask at the door to the hospital before I entered. St. Paul’s is notorious for their slow, over crowded elevators. Not this week, the halls and the elevators in the hospital were empty.

The foyer of the hotel was empty. In fact the hotel itself was mostly empty. Most of the lights were out in the common areas and the escalators at a stand-still to save energy. It was spooky. Four in the afternoon and it was like walking through a hotel at four in the morning.

I realize everyone else living in the world for the last year has been going through this, and now it is common, but living on this island our life has pretty much continued as normal. Sure, we haven’t had any guests or visited with friends as we normally would do, but we have been able to live our days relatively unaffected.

We did have lots of time to drive around the city and visit our old haunts. Alberni Street where we first lived together, Stanley Park seawall where we walked on Sunday mornings. Spanish Banks West where I misspent the summers of my youth drinking on the beach. Locarno beach where E did the same. Spanish Banks to remember my Mom. UBC to see our daughter-in-law’s gorgeous banners, which are currently hanging down Main Mall.

Dunbar to see the neighbourhood where E grew up, although his house is long gone. Kerrisdale and Maple Grove Park where I grew up. My house is also gone. Drove down the secret lane that no one remembers. It was a gorgeous sunny day.

We quite enjoyed ourselves and, bonus, when your normal time to get up in the morning is the crack of dawn, you get Stanley Park all to yourselves. We had long walks around downtown and I was reminded of the countless lunches I ate on the courthouse steps, in my days working for the Big Blue company at the centre of town. After work I would meet my friend at the Old Bailiff at Robson Square for stuffed mushroom caps. mmmmmmm

So back to the island last week and we brought our granddaughter with us. Her parents were able to assure that it would be safe to have her visit. We have her for two weeks and we consider ourselves so fortunate that she loves it here so much. She is no trouble at all. The usual work isn’t accomplished with her here but that is quite fine by us as time spent reading books to her or walking down the lane holding her hand is way more fun.

When E isn’t reading children’s stories he is still working on the greenhouse. I have moved most of my seed starts and cuttings inside the greenhouse and although it isn’t as warm as it will be when we are finished, they seem happy. Our granddaughter has helped me pot up the tomato seedlings and we are currently sitting at eighty four tomatoes. Whether they all thrive or not, I won’t know for a bit, but they are looking good.

The weather has not been the best. Frankly, I am sick of the wind. It can be sunny outside but if the wind is blowing right at us, it is friggin’ cold and, honestly, I am done with it. I want endless days of 20 degrees, and no wind, so that I can enjoy my garden. Is that so

much to ask?

my biggest hero

We have, in the past twenty one years, celebrated the anniversary of E’s heart transplant in a variety of ways. Two of the years we were with a large group of our nearest and dearest in Mexico. One year, many of the same plus a few more joined us in Las Vegas. It has been an occasion jointly celebrated with our friends because they lived through it too. They were there to take our kids to hockey games and birthday parties when we were otherwise occupied. They were there when our kids needed to be amused during E’s surgery. Our friends and family are really the best.

It was so long ago. The journal I kept at the time can help with the details if I ever need them, but I thought I would share some of the flashes, forever in my memory, which I have of the time.

  • When Sue from BC transplant sat me down the first weekend and explained the ordeal of a heart transplant and then followed up asking if I had any questions. My response.. “how much time should I tell his boss he will need off from work.” She still laughs at that one. Suffice to say E was never able to work again.
  • E’s dad thinking I had lost my mind when I phoned to tell him that E needed a transplant and then sending his Dr. brother to the hospital to see what the hell was going on.
  • When someone said to E that he was “lucky” ’cause he was now on disability.
  • A father from the hockey team told me not to worry cause “you will marry again”.
  • E’s father living with us and taking care of the house and kids while we were at the hospital. I would come home at 10pm and he and I would sit in the living room, children all asleep and we would talk honestly about what the Doctors were telling me. Papa never took over or micro managed or questioned my decisions. He was my hero.
  • E trusting me to make all of the decisions. Half of those decisions I made without telling him. I just wanted E to focus on himself. The details and the worrying were left to me and his Doctors.
  • E’s Doctor sitting me down to tell me that E was circling the drain, but he had a plan. He was my hero.
  • My friends driving me to and from the hospital every day.
  • Janice R. arriving at my door with a gunny sack of freshly harvested potatoes from her farm. I have never tasted anything so good.
  • Kerry arriving at my door with a pewter TinMan figurine which began a TinMan collection that continues to this day.
  • My friend looking at E’s license plate, “I don’t get it. Why a Tin Man, there is nothing wrong with his brain?”
  • E walking through the doors of the hospital for the operation with no more hesitation or worry than if he was walking into the grocery store.
  • Lisa and Becci sleeping with E and I in the hospital room waiting for the surgery to start
  • The sound of the gurney as it came down the hall to take him to the OR.
  • Saying goodbye to him as they handed me his wedding ring.
  • Deanne reading to me in the waiting room so I could fall asleep.
  • Gary and Linda donating to BC transplant in E’s name on his anniversary.
  • Andy C. coming out of the operating room in his scrubs to hug me and tell me that E was going to be fine.

Which brings up another item of interest..

Our kids were in French immersion. Very small class sizes. Our middle son was ten at the time, so grade five? There were maybe twenty kids in the class and maybe nine of them boys?

One of the boy’s father was a Profusionist. (runs the heart lung machine to keep the patient alive when the heart comes out). He was called in to work during E’s surgery but when they said who the patient was he said he shouldn’t do it and called in another on the team. But he still came and supervised. He is the Andy that came out and told me E was going to be fine.

Then it turned out that one of the fathers of another classmate was the medic who transported the new heart to St. Paul’s in the helicopter.

There was no celebration like the party on his first anniversary. Anyone and everyone who helped and supported us were there. It lasted long into the night. I think E woke up two days later. I hired a belly dancer and everyone from my young sons, to my 80 year old mother, danced with her. There were friends and neighbours, young and old. There was beer pong in the garage and limbo in the kitchen.

All and all it was a crazy time and I can’t finish up without of course mentioning our gratitude to the generous family of the donor who saved E’s life. E works very hard at honouring the gift and living a deserving life.

It is probably pretty obvious, he is

my biggest hero


won’t kill him

Well, it’s the first day of spring and, as long time readers know, it is the time of year when we talk about organ donation and the Gift of Life.. If you are tired of listening to me talk about this subject, off you go. We will get back to gardens, greenhouses and septic systems in a few days.

Solid organ transplant patients have been in the news quite a bit lately regarding their position in the vaccination roll out. Without an immune system to fight Covid, transplant patients stand vulnerable. There are many others out there worried about Covid who are otherwise immune compromised but we are talking today about solid organ transplant patients.

In 1999, E was trim, fit and physically active. He was a healthy 43 year old man who played recreational hockey year round and ran the stairs in his office high rise instead of using elevators. No amount of kale or kombucha would have prevented what happened to him. In a matter of days he went from pouring cement and building the stairway at the family house here on the island to laying in a CCU at VGH needing a heart transplant.

What saved him was science. Science and the Canadian medical system. Doctors at three hospitals who, decision after decision, followed the correct path to the discovery of just what it was that was attacking his heart and how to save him. From ordering a heart biopsy, which revealed the rare disease, to the experimental medications prescribed to delay the transplant as long as possible. We walked through those hospital doors and put our faith and his life in their hands. A myriad of tests and experimental treatments and forty two nights in the hospital culminating with a heart transplant and none of it cost us a cent. To this day we are amazed at how lucky we were. At the time there were only 63 known cases of Giant Cell Myocarditis in the world and most were discovered in autopsy. It was a disease which really did just present like the flu.

E was able to hold on to his native heart for nine more months until the time came when he had just days left. On March 22, 2000, he received the gift which has allowed him to live the last twenty-one years without one more night in the hospital. Sure he has been on steroids the whole time, makes sure he doesn’t get over tired and used a lot of hand sanitizer before it was in fashion, but until the pandemic hit, his life had no limits. He has really been able to do anything he wanted to do.

Eleven years ago, to simplify his life, we sold our big family home with the large yard and moved to a townhouse. In no time we were bored beyond belief so asked his cardiologist if it would be okay to move to an off grid cabin, on a gulf island, with no ferry. He encouraged us to go. “What are you going to do?” he said “sit in a rocking chair and wait to die? Go for it.” Nine years later we are still here and E is not only healthier than ever, he is thriving.

Which brings us to what it has been like for a solid organ transplant recipient during the last year. It has been exactly like what it has been for everyone else, but we are just that much more careful. We are fortunate that we have been able to isolate here on the island with minimal interaction. Our island has actually been the safest place we could have been. Our friends and family have been very supportive. Sure we hear well intentioned advice from people, who don’t know what they are talking about, suggesting that instead of a vaccine we should just boost his immune system. Just eat some kale and take some Vitamin D. He takes fourteen pills a day to eliminate his immune system!

He will be in the next phase for vaccination, hopefully, in the next couple of weeks. We will be so relieved because once again we put our faith in the Canadian medical system, science and his doctors. Once vaccinated he may still get the virus, we hope he doesn’t, but if he does, we know it

won’t kill him

and Granny Clampett

Yesterday, at the end of the day, I went up to check on Frank (pick up mail). Absolutely no one but our neighbor Anne anywhere near us at this end of the island so I felt it wouldn’t be unreasonable to venture up wearing my pandemic uniform. This outfit would be more commonly referred to as pajamas in the real world. I’ll be honest, I thought it would be safe, as Anne, in the past, has sat with me on the perch in the sun while I shaved my legs, so I didn’t think seeing me in my pjs would offend if I ran into her.

As I was walking toward Frank, in my finest sleepwear, I saw three people were coming toward me with a dog. The sight of three strangers walking down my lane toward me is so rare at the best of times, let alone in the last year, that I was confused more than startled. But I waved and the puppy barked. Over the barking, I understood they were walking around the island looking for properties that were for sale. Particularly the one on the road behind us. I explained how to find it and they were on their way. After the last year, honestly, I think there are only one or two properties left available to buy. I have given up trying to remember all the names of the new people. It has been insane.

Work is progressing well on the greenhouse. It won’t be long before I can put my seedlings in there even if it is just temporary. E is going to get it air-tight and then will stop for a day or two to build me a new arbour for the garden. The new roses are arriving this month. Then he can go back to the greenhouse and build the counters and install the sink etc.

I have peas up in the garden. Lettuce, spinach and onions are planted. The red pepper seedlings are thriving down in the house and I am hoping the tomatoes look happier once they are moved to the greenhouse.

We pumped water from the well for the first time today. On a good day we can get three gallons a minute and we pumped for twenty minutes. We haven’t pumped since last August so I imagine there is lots of water in the aquafer for the taking. It hasn’t really rained very much lately and we were down 1200 gallons from our maximum in the tanks. It would be nice if we could pump in a day what we use in a day, but the well really hasn’t been very reliable the last few years.

We have now officially gone one month with no wine in my glass. We have a nice dinner planned for E’s heart anniversary next week so we will end the ridiculous sobriety then..

Regarding my outfit yesterday, in my defense, I had been sewing all day. Work continues on the island raffle prize quilt and I honestly saw no reason to get dressed when I was working inside. But, I suspect after our encounter, the couple who were lost on our lane seriously questioned buying property on this island once they realized they would be living down the road from the likes of Jed

and Granny Clampett.

is my church

Our barge arrived last Monday filled with everything I could think of to supply E with a summer’s worth of projects. They were ordered from Arbutus Lumber on Gabriola and then delivered it to the barge at Elverano Beach. Everything from soil to fencing wire, 2×4’s and rough cedar, was packed tightly together to be craned onto the barge. Then our friend ran the crane at our marina here on the island and lifted it straight into our 34 year old beast of a F150 truck.

It wasn’t too difficult to off load at our house because we could drive right to the work site. If you are bringing supplies over, I highly recommend this process. Didn’t cost too much and no back breaking labor involved.

The week since has been spent tidying up the garden to get it ready for spring. The mulch has been spread, vegetable beds amended and almost every plant which is going to be moved, has been moved. Additional wire fencing might be needed around each of the vegetable beds because honestly, as cute as the new puppy is, she is a menace. Her heart is in the right place when she tries to help but her gardening skills leave a lot to be desired. As it is, we have to replace all the wire around the main garden since I watched the raccoons walking right through the wire that was there.

E continues to build the greenhouse and although it won’t be finished by the suggested March 16 deadline, the tomato seeds can probably go in there while he works around them installing the fan, lighting, plumbing and siding, etc. I am nothing if not flexible.

With the intention of spending a lot of time growing flowers from divisions and cuttings in the new greenhouse, I took a lot of divisions today to get me started. More pots will be needed.

Right now the garden is unbelievably messy, as I pull plants out and move them all around. The shrubs are all bare and there are no flowers to speak of. It really isn’t particularly pretty but I just love working up there. I will post pictures in June when everything is in bloom and it will be gorgeous. These days are good days.

The garden

is my church