Off The Grid

Living off the Grid on a west coast island


attitude on life

While E was at the hospital this week they gave him the usual questionnaire to fill out.. Are you depressed? Are you stressed? etc. He just says no to everything.. He never has had any stress or depression, impending heart transplant or not.. The guy never worries.

Back to the island. Back to work.

E headed up to the water tanks to clean out the smaller one.. He has made a vacuum contraption out of old copper piping attached to a garden hose. The tank was filthy… It isn’t now. All three tanks are open with the potential of 4000 gallons of water on the top of the hill. We are currently sitting at about 800.  Last week we were at zero. We are now pumping 15 minutes, once per hour.. Won’t take too long to get the tanks filled and we can put this nasty business of dirty well water behind us…

I went to work in the greenhouse (such as it is). Time to get the vegie seeds started and try to have some sort of decent garden produce this summer. We will put last summer behind us.. I planted a lot of tomatoes seeds..

8 X Roma Paste, 18 X Alisa Craig,  8 X Ruths Perfect Medium, 10 X Saltspring Sunrise Medium, 8 X Cosmonaut Volkov, and 8 X Pollocks Medium

Five Cinderella pumpkin and some basil. The peas are sitting between a damp cloth in the kitchen til they are sprouted. (otherwise the voles get them).. The garden is still pretty messy but I don’t have a lot else on my plate right now so I should be able to get things tidied up pretty quick.

E has just about finished installing a solar panel upgrade to our neighbours house and fixing all of our urgent system problems.. I’m hoping, if I ask nicely,  I can get a couple of days work out of him at the greenhouse. Won’t take much to have it finished.

There is a lot to do down at the house but we are taking a bit of time getting caught up on all of the chores that were neglected last year. We are in no rush.

As we were pulling out of the marina this week, I asked him if he needed me to roll up the plastic canvass so he could see out the back of the boat we were borrowing while ours was fixed.. His response… “Don’t bother.. Doesn’t matter what is behind us.. Just need to look ahead”

Pretty much sums up his whole

attitude on life

50 Bacardi







Especially, we remember

Good morning. It’s 8am and we are sitting at a coffee shop at Robson and Davie. We are here, because for eighteen years we always come here, on this day, at this time for coffee, before we begin our annual visit at St. Paul’s. Eighteen times we have driven the same route, parked in the same spot.. sipped coffee at the same table.. We aren’t superstitious.. but today we remember.

E had all his blood work done on the big island last week. As always, I peeked at the results on ehealth and there was nothing to worry about.. but I won’t relax until I hear it from the doctor.

First stop, xray, ground floor. This would seem a pretty benign test but I remember the first time E had an X-ray, it showed his heart to be the size of a soccer ball filling his whole chest cavity. That day, oblivious, I waited outside the lab in the chair when bells started ringing and nurses began hugging me with tears in their eyes… it was a long time ago. But sitting here today, we remember.

Next stop, 4th floor echo cardio gram … The echo test reveals the ejection fraction rate and the flow. If there is maybe a leak. How much blood is actually being pumped. It is never 100% a good ejection fraction rate is maybe 79%. There was a time E was at 13%. Doctor raved about the pictures he was getting. Said it was so clear he could see the stitches attaching the new heart in place. There was a time when they invited us to examine his old dead heart… we remember.

Next stop a quick ECG.. Again, the technician raves about the picture. Eighteen years? She asks… Wow, impressive she says.. All of the testing appointments run like a clock. We never have to wait.

Upstairs to the transplant clinic. The head of Cardiology, who used to preside over every step of E’s treatment was no where to be seen. Probably off saving someone else’s life. Instead, a twelve year old Doctor came into check on him and give us the results of all of the testing. There was a time when papers were written about E’s unusual case, residents came in droves to try to guess what was wrong with him. Now he is boring, normal, regular, a perfectly healthy guy… but we remember..

As you may be guessing. E is perfectly healthy. There is no reason that we won’t be able to have twenty healthy years on the new deck, drinking wine with friends and family. All thanks to science and the generosity of a family we will never be able to thank in person. But today,

especially, we remember

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Nations flag idea

One can log onto three different weather forecasting channels and get three different weather reports for our waters. They are all unreliable. We are often called for the water conditions from friends about to head here in their boats.

We have a few more things to install on the deck, once the railing is on.. We bought a weather station to project out off the corner of the deck into the wind..The weather station measures rain fall, wind speed, barometric pressure and of course the temperature. It is a very cool system which can hook into the internet on the weather underground. We will give you the coordinates and you will be able to go on-line to see the weather on the island here. First we need a railing.

The other thing I want is a big ass flag. My Mom’s friend Evie had a United Nations flag at her house and I always loved it. I had thought we might go a more traditional route and get the Maple leaf waving in the wind.. Haven’t thought much on where we will hang it but it’s best location will become self evident, I should suspect.

I heard on the news that Parliament changes their flags fairly regularly and you can put your name on a list to get an authentic Parliament Hill flag. I thought that sounded just about big enough for our needs and wrote to Ottawa to get my name on the waiting list.

Good News! I heard back this week and my name is indeed on the waiting list. They advised me that my name should make it to the top of the list in just seventy-eight ………….YEARS!

They were very excited for me as well can be expected but cautioned me to hold on to the reference number and to keep them informed if I should change my address.

I might want to rethink the United

Nations flag idea




I can do

Saturday, E was coming back from town on flat waters, under sunny skies, just past the narrows when the engine on our boat had a hissy fit. It made a loud ugly noise and stopped. He hadn’t hit anything to deserve the tantrum. The engine had just decided that it refused to go further until it sees the Doctor. Our dear friend, Tim came out to tow E back into the Cove. Then we had it towed to the city on Monday.

Boat Doctors are not cheap and we are still waiting for word on the cost to convince said motor it would like to go back to work. sigh.. Didn’t I just say we were working through our problems and most were under control.???

Although the well pump is now working, we disturbed the hole when we pulled and replaced the pump. Yuck and guck have joined muck floating in our well water. It’s a lovely brown colour when it comes out of the tap. Not to waste the icky water, we are pumping it into our two five hundred gallon garden tanks. At some point in the very near future we are hoping to fill the upper tanks with three thousand gallons of clear water for the house feed.. In the meantime we will head up the hill to our neighbours for a shower every once in while so as not to offend the wildlife..

While E deals with dead engines and muddied well waters, I have turned my attentions to setting up patio furniture and planning the deck garden. I have figured out a way to make the deck deer proof and am hoping to be able to have a few ( few???) flowers scattered here and there (everywhere!). This requires a lot of seed catalogue study and day dreaming on the deck. It’s a very strenuous job . With all the  work that E has to do with the grunge of the well water etc. I feel daydreaming on the deck in front of my new fire pit is arguably the very least

I can do..


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rewarding when solved

Truck kinda running, laundry awesome, yesterday E dealt with our third problem. We have had no water pumping into our well for probably weeks.

Armed with his new multi meter, E tested the wiring at the top of the control box in the top of the well housing. There was a bad reading which indicated a problem with one of the wires on the well pump. This pump is only six years old and should last twenty five years.

Dave and Brad came over to help him pull the pump. It is 275 feet deep so they attached one end to the truck and drove the truck a ways down our lane…. With all of the piping now stretched along our driveway E could access the pump. Did I mention it was pissing rain…. Dave and Brad had places to go and E was confident he could finish the job alone.

He couldn’t see anything wrong so he tested the wires at the top of the pump and the readings were basically the same  so that meant the wires all the way down the well were good.. But still confusing why the pump wasn’t working.

So he checked his readings in the manual and it insisted there is something wrong with the wiring. So he opened up the pump itself and found a broken wire within the pump. It was right at the top of the pump casing. Six years of slow rubbing every time the pump had turned on had caused the wire to wear through..

After six hours of working in the pouring rain and mud, E was pretty thrilled he at least found the problem.. Fixing it wasn’t difficult. He soldered the wire back together and heat shrunk the connection.. and then wrapped the shit out of it in electrical tape…

He started at nine in the morning and my daughter and I helped him drop the pump back in the well just before dark…. A long and certainly frustrating day for E, but as with all of the problems on this island, certainly on this property, very

rewarding when solved.


but first traffic

They take their traffic reporting very seriously in the big city.. As we were about to disembark from the ferry in Tsawwassen last week they announced that the weather was wreaking havoc on the roads ahead. We tuned to the all news radio station for an accurate traffic report and they advised that there were white out conditions on the highway, dangerous. A snow storm had hit hard south of the tunnel and the 99 was a nightmare. jackknifed semi, the overpass closed, Arthur Drive closed.. We opted for the back roads through the farms, took us an hour and a half to get to the pub, usually a 15 minute drive.

We had tried to leave the island before the snow hit, and our sequined finery and gold lam’e bib and tucker were all packed and loaded into the truck. Then the engine died and we had to wait for a ride from my sister-in-law…. By the time we were on the water it was blizzardy and just plain freezing…. We were pretty happy to be heading to the desert.

We left behind a broken truck, a dead washing machine and a broken well water pump. We managed to forget about them while we had four days of hilarity and childishness…. But we are back to reality.

Our friends puttered with the truck while we were gone and were able to get it moving.. It’s going to take some parts and thought and work to keep it moving but not first. First we had to get the new washing machine installed.

It is the most basic of machines, on-off, hot-cold. We don’t need fancy settings. No delicate cycle. I’m sixty, I have no delicates. E installed it yesterday and it works like a hot damn…

E bought a new meter in town to check the wiring on the well pump.. We bought this pump and installed it the first spring we were here, 2012. It should last twenty years. One of the tests came back with a flaw so two of our friends have come over this morning to help E pull the pump (300 feet) and see if he can find and fix the wiring problem. Then we can get back to our other chores.

Living here, we don’t need the all news radio station very often. Not much going on, few traffic problems. But a couple of weeks ago, the phone rang at 2 AM. My sister living 7 hours ahead on the east coast was calling to tell me there was a Tsunami warning for our area and to get to higher ground. We got up and turned on the radio. Not a time for rock & roll we tuned to the all news radio station. We heard the reporter announce…

“And now for the news. An earthquake has hit off Alaska and there is a Tsunami warning for the entire West Coast……………………

But first traffic”







has to supervise

Just because, to live on this island successfully requires an affinity for problem solving, doesn’t mean we are looking for more!

In fact when everything is working correctly we are quite comfortable taking the day off with a good book and a glass of wine.

Much as the amount of “stuff” we have to carry back from town is directly related to how high the tide is (steep boat ramp), the propensity for functioning things to stop working increases when you have company coming or need to leave the island for a few days/weeks.

We can’t wash our clothes before packing the night before a trip, especially in the winter. We have no electric dryer so clothes must be washed a few days ahead and hung inside to dry. I started yesterday. Not a big job. My wardrobe consists of horrid jeans,  work jeans, better jeans and black jeans. Shirts range from flannel with rips to T-shirts with holes. But, I thought I would make the effort none the less. Once all of the clothes (there is no point in separating) were soaked with water, the washing machine decided to stop working. After turning it upside down and taking it apart piece by piece E declared it dead, mort, a goner, wash no more………E carried everything in garbage bags up to our neighbours (thank you!) and we ordered a new one. It will be here next week. sigh.

While he was in the bathroom/laundry/utility room he decided to turn on the remote start to pump water from the well to our tanks. That’s when he discovered our pump isn’t working. Probably hasn’t for a few days. He went up the hill to check the tanks.. We are almost out of water.  sigh. We are going to have to pull the well pump and see if it’s plugged.

My role, as I see it in the relationship is to stay out-of-the-way while he solves system problems while toiling away at all of the other chores that need doing. Sami, however, considers his input valuable and always

has to supervise


Any where else…

Someone, who shall remain nameless, but it wasn’t E, had the brain dead idea to let the fire go out overnight so we could empty the ashes.. The firebox was getting pretty full, having been last emptied Dec 27. Last night was the coldest night of the winter.. What was she who remains nameless thinking???

I got up at six and it was -2 C outside and 10 degrees inside…

Yesterday, it snowed here for the first time this winter. So close to sea level, we had only a couple of inches but the higher end of the island had maybe double that. Heading to coffee at the Y’s we had to go back for our chain saw as there was a tree down blocking our lane and another across the road at the bottom of dead truck hill.

Our project this week is to take everything out of the living room. Everything! And pile it into the two bedrooms. Craig is coming in on the weekend to sand and give a final stain to all of the wood interior. That will be it, the interior pretty much done. One year to the date of starting.

This is our sixth winter here and we have only left the island a couple of days at a time, to see family. But, this weekend we are taking a few days to wander the streets of Nevada, take in a hockey game, a few shows and some sunshine while Craig does his thing. When we are back, we will turn our attention to finishing the deck. We won’t be going anywhere again, but to visit family, for a long time.

I cannot tell you how fun it was, yesterday for E on a cold crisp morning to have an excuse to power up the chain saw. So much more fun for him than city living …once the interior is stained, why would we go

any where else?


sized freezer helped

Back in the day, the powers that be banned cyclamates because apparently they weren’t good for us or rats. Cancer potential or some such thing. Woodward’s, our go to store for everything from groceries to socks didn’t dispose of their cyclamate filled soda pop. They put them on sale twelve for $1.49 along with the similarly priced cans of cyclamate soaked fruit.

At the time, as a treat, my brother, sister and I were allowed one pop and one bag of potato chips on a Saturday night to eat while we watched Gilligan’s Island. No McDonald’s, no Friday night pizza, no Costco muffins, one bag of chips and one pop, once a week. When they went on sale at Woodward’s, Mom bought every can of pop and fruit in the store. Our kitchen cupboards were stacked floor to ceiling with root beer and canned peaches.

When we were raising our kids, they fared a little better than I did for food but our shopping list didn’t ever consist of very fancy cuts of meat. I could have written the book, one hundred ways to cook ground beef using nothing but a casserole dish and a tin of soup. No one suffered, we ate pretty well and it was “good enough”.

But now that we have less mouths to feed and more than two cents to our name,  we thought we would like to explore shopping for meat direct from the farmers. Years ago we were able to get a half a lamb from the island farm and it was delicious. But it filled our tiny wee freezer full and that eliminated any other freezing options for the entire winter.

Today, a quarter pig arrived through Craig’s connection on the big island. Butchered this week and straight into our new electric freezer. Knew to this, I had no idea how much space the meat would take, what types of meat we would get and really anything else about the process. I was mortified a tongue would show up. We are city folk just trying to eat better quality meat.

I know a few of my readers raise their own meat and don’t need to be hearing anything from me but for the rest of my friends who follow along and know as little we did.

We ordered one-quarter pig. It wasn’t cheap. Craig figures next time he will save money and do the butchering himself.. He likes to???????????

We traded our short ribs for extra bacon…

  • 5 packs of bacon totalling 3.32 pounds
  • 6 packs of Pork Stew totalling 3.32 pounds (great for E’s famous sweet and sour pork
  • 1 leg roast … 3.20 pounds
  • 1 shoulder roast…  3.20 pounds
  • 1 should steak..   2 pounds
  • 5 packs of bone in loin chops totalling 6.7 pounds

Yesterday, I had made as much room in the freezer as possible then checked with family and friends to reserve space in their city freezers if it was necessary. I vacuum sealed the newly arrived packages of meat with my handy-dandy food saver bought for just this kind of merriment and stacked the sealed gems with great skill and care.

Much like winning a game of tetris, it all fit. Having a decent

sized freezer helped


A perch also

I saw a new resident arriving at the dock a few of years ago with a small bag of bird seed, maybe the size of a bag potato chips. I was standing with Kathy at the time, a friend who also enjoys feeding the birds. We looked at each other and simultaneously said “he’s going to need more seed”

I often refer to our house as the perch. I go through a lot of seed (five types) to encourage birds to the house for my daily entertainment. The current layout of the deck area is proving difficult to find a good place to hang feeders. I get a lot of disapproving looks from the men around here when the birds poop on the beautiful new wood sills and decking.

We also have lots of birds around the house who require no involvement from me. I enjoy their antics also, but grow nervous when the eagle takes too much interest in a lone duck. I can handle watching the eagle eating a fish but not a duck. I have my limits.

But it seems we have a new guest. I imagine it’s a compliment that he/she has decided the best view of the water is from the top of our roof.

It seems he thinks of my house as

a perch also