Off The Grid

Living off the Grid on a west coast island


Beneath the soil

Traditionally my garlic is planted by the light of the October full moon. Preferably, yet rarely it is planted while naked. Stories are told of the health benefits of eating nakedly planted garlic but they remain unproven, by me.

The rains are supposed to start on Monday so I felt the risk to plant my wee cloves early was less than the unpleasantness of planting them in the mud.

I planted three different types. There are twenty-two cloves of Metechi, a hot strong spicy vigorous grower. Forty of German White, great for roasting and stores well. Twenty nine of Duganski, a strong, fiery flavour with a rich garlic after taste. Ninety one in all. I got carried away at the nursery…

There is much discussion on the island as to which side of ones house is the front and which is the back. Is the front where you enter? Or is the front the side facing the water?E is working on the shingles and framing around the windows at the back of the house, or is it the front of the house. He is working on the rock side. Today we can call it the back.

I can’t show you a picture yet because it is definitely more than a one day job. It is very finicky work cutting the shingles around the edges. So instead, I will show you a picture of my pretty garlic all ready to be pushed

beneath the soil

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His job too

Endless days of sunshine. Temps sitting at about 16 degrees. Waters are flat calm. We are hardly using any firewood. It is a good chance to use up the stacks of bark we have. E lights some bark and a few pieces of fir around 4 Am and then we let it die out during the day. House is warm into the evening from the sunshine. No reason to break into our ample supply of arbutus yet. These are my favorite days on the island.

The bathroom used to be on the water side of the house. There is a hall way there now. The window needed to be removed and covered over with insulation and shakes. Again, we are working backwards on this reno. E tackled the window today. Progress which isn’t particularly noticeable once done but left unfinished was an eyesore.



Over the summer it became apparent we needed a light on the stairs from the house down to the deck. Something which wouldn’t detract from the night view but would make the stairs safer after a few glasses of wine. Motion activated. We bought one in town yesterday. With the wall completed E could now install the light with the wiring he had all ready and waiting.

The sea lions are back and it’s a common sight to have them swimming past the deck. Yesterday, on our way back from town they were all around our boat. Two were canooodling while the others around us had huge fish hanging out of their mouths. A highlight for our commute.

Yesterday, while the dogs had their winter hair cuts, we did our big winter shop. It took me most of this morning to get it all put away.

An old friend of E’s (and mine) called the other night. Friend is hesitant to retire as he loves his job.

I was thinking how lucky we are that E loves

his job too

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wearing a harness

A common problem when stealing a tree peony from your Mother’s garden before you sell her house, is hastily planting it incorrectly in a new planter. I planted the root too high in the soil, thereby giving new life to the grafted bush peony. The beautiful tree peony hadn’t a chance.

Today, I pulled the whole combined root ball out of the pot, hosed it off, cut back the bush peony roots (I think) and replanted it deeper with just the tree buds showing. Hopefully I have stifled the bush growth to enable the tree growth to emerge. Then I went back to planting 110 daffodil bulbs.

E had a one step back, two steps forward kind of day. When he began to frame the  outside of the window above the kitchen sink he found the wires from the solar panels were still exposed in front of the window. The solar panels had been installed before the windows. He put down the wood trim and pulled out the extension ladder.

All of the wires for the solar panels were yet to be tucked in under the roof cap. The roof cap also needed to be fixed permanently down to the centre of the roof. (we ran out of screws last time E was up there). The spring was too wet. The summer had been too hot. Today, was as good a time as any to secure the wires and the roof cap and then feed the wires behind the window through into the utility closet.

It didn’t take too long to finish once he was up there. Now, we can finally say the roof is completely finished and there is no reason in the near future for anyone to go back up there. We will notice a huge difference when it gets windy tonight.

When you build a house backwards these kinds of things happen. And no, he isn’t

wearing a harness


No, he isn’t wearing a harness ;(


on the dog

My mother in law used to buy her daffodil bulbs by the pound. Every fall she would scatter fifty pounds of them at the base of the trees on the property and then bury them where they landed. The look now, forty years later is a naturalized sea of yellow in the spring. It is a welcome sight at the end of a cold winter. Papa always said my garden in town needed more daffodils.

This Woodsworth poem always reminds me of the two of them and their property here.

I wandered lonely as a cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Not many people left on the island. The summer people are gone and a lot of the rest will leave soon for warmer climates. When we go on our walks we generally see most everyone who is here. They are working in their gardens, finishing summer projects or taking dangerous trees down before the November winds. Everyone has a job list and they can’t waste these sunny days.

Well, “they” can’t. I can. Yesterday, I hung around the house watching Sami sleep.  The bleeding has stopped, he kept last nights dinner down, and well, the bleeding has stopped, that’s the big one. So we will continue what we have been doing (tiny, really wet portions of probiotic foods to clean out his tummy and hydrate him). The Vet had warned us Thursday that the stomach lining could bleed out and there would be no stopping it if we hadn’t caught it in time. She called me twice yesterday to check up on him. He seems to have passed the crisis point.

My shovels are broken so I can’t do the work I need to do in the garden. The mini iron won’t be here til Tuesday and I don’t want to start my quilt squares til it arrives.

I have 150 daffodil bulbs to plant down the driveway to the house. I guess I could do that today and still keep an eye

on the dog.


Egg races Easter ’93….. Note all of the daffodils!!!!


do do cake

When a dog gets to be twelve years old and has fought off otters  (an otter victim) and scary puppies you would think he would be able to rest easy and have a care free life. Not to be, for our wee Sami. Apparently, he has eaten something. It could be anything living in this type of environment. I was very confident telling the vet that there would not be any rat poison around here or at our neighbours but there are countless poisonous plants and dead animals that a dog could nibble on.

I had to rush him to the vet this afternoon when blood started to come out of where blood ought not come out of…..


He is on antibiotics, probiotics, fluids , pills, packages of powder and drops…. so far the afternoon total is 300.00…. We are hoping he can fight it…. but in the mean time.. snuggles.

I have mentioned that the island women make a quilt or afghan each year to raise funds for the fire hall. This year it is a quilt and the participants met over coffee and cake this morning (there is always cake) to discuss the layout..

One of the questions which came up pertaining to off grid quilters was the concern of ironing during cloudy winter days when no solar power is available.. Quilting involves a lot of ironing. Heat is a big draw on the batteries. My friend who does a lot of quilting and is brilliant at it pulled out her handy-dandy mini iron.  Here is my favorite quilt of hers.img_3750

So I ordered one of the irons from Amazon. mini iron  $37.00 and it only uses 20 watts.  I can leave it on all afternoon while I quilt. She says it works like a hot damn. (pun intended).

I have learned to steal quilting tips from people who know what they are doing. I have also learned to keep my mouth shut and eat my cake when they are discussing quilt math. Quilting involves a lot of math.. I don’t do math but I do do cake….



a huge handicap

My daughter brought a book for the dogs last weekend. Inside a Dog, What dogs see, smell and know.  Truth is our dogs aren’t getting along as well as we had hoped. Yesterday, was the first day they didn’t have a fist fight. This morning, they even woke up next to each other on our bed and no one was growling.

Sunny skies and 15 degrees predicted for the next two weeks. It is likely, the last of the good weather and we know we need to make the days count…

E started to stain the wood trim for the window exteriors and I went boldly up to face the garden.

Ughh.. what a mess… What isn’t dead is overgrown and messy and frankly I am unhappy with the whole thing. I started to prune back some of the shrubs and then went all George Washington on them and cut them right back. Three or four were dug out completely and thrown on the burn pile.. I broke my last two shovels getting rid of one of the trees.

If they don’t have scented flowers, and tolerate drought conditions I really don’t have time for them anymore.. It is just too disheartening.. Time to face the fact that this garden is not the garden I had in Ladner.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI need to accept and adapt.. The rhodos and azaleas I brought with me are long since dead. I should probably give up on my last hydrangea too.

The Mexican Orange, Mock Orange, Russian Sage and ornamental grasses survived. The roses and peonies are near death but can be saved. I’ll just keep cutting back and digging out til the dead is gone then decide what to keep.. sigh.. It’s sad….. If next summer’s garden is as sad after we have added all the water tanks we have added, I may let the deer have it as a playpen…

I’m hoping the psychology in the dog’s book will make all the difference to the peace and tranquility in our house. I’m not too confident though, as I feel the fact that neither dog can read is

a huge handicap






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She was right

The shoes were back. There was a time I couldn’t get through my front door without navigating the giant pile of runners strewn at my suburban front door by our kids and their friends. Our kids and their shoes came for the weekend.

The turkey was in the oven, the dogs were asleep, the baby napping and the table was set. One of them had gone for a run, one was reading and the other two were watching the game. Although it was only two, E and I sat down with a glass of wine to enjoy the moment.

Later, in the evening, stuffed with turkey (pun intended), beers in hand and baby again, safely asleep, we sat down to the board game of the weekend (Pandemic). We combined our skills to save the world from certain annihilation and feasted on pumpkin pie. Satiated and content we then sat in front of the fire at peace, seven of us. There are two more than there used to be not so very long ago, yet I can’t imagine our family now without them.

On Monday, we followed the strict rule that no food was to be left behind. I filled their bags with packages of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, pie and cookies. We said our goodbyes and E took the five of them back to the ferry.

I used to work with a woman whose two sons were maybe ten years older than mine. She told me that I shouldn’t mind the pile of shoes at the door because one day we would miss them.

She was right


Last post in

Beautiful day today. Colder that is for sure. Not Calgary cold, but there is a definite chill in the air which wasn’t here last weekend.

It was a momentous day when all of the old house that was coming off, had come off. Many giant burn piles and barge loads of crap later, it was a momentous day when we had all of that debris disposed of. But today, today, the last post was installed!

We ran out of time last spring to get the two last posts milled before the fire ban. So today was the day… Craig milled the two posts plus the wood to secure the new windows from the outside. Up until now they were only held in permanently from the inside. The outside was just temporary. We were waiting for the deck to be built to use scaffolding to reach the windows safely. We couldn’t put scaffolding on the precarious rocks at the cliffs edge.

E can now find some scaffolding from around the island to borrow, then paint the trim black and install it on the windows. No more seeing daylight through the windows edge.

Craig’s next job is to mill us the wood for window sills and interior edging. On winter stormy days E can work on the interior finishing at his own pace, no rush.

We have our whole gang coming for the weekend. Then, it will be a quiet winter routine of one job a day, days. But for today, it was momentous to see the

last post in


all systems go

October 1st. Burn pile day. The fire ban is over. All around the island you could hear the matches strike. Although other areas of the province had already lifted their ban, this island maintains ours until October 1st. If there was an emergency everyone’s wells are dry and their water tanks near empty. There is little water on the island available to fight a fire if there was one. It may seem over protective but we have had some pretty scary situations. Better safe than sorry.

We had a small burn pile and were finally able to tidy up a bit more of the property.. All the burnable summer garbage disposed of. We found more metal garbage to be taken off.  I do not understand where it comes from. I suspect it is breeding behind the studio…

Today, I completed the on-line portion of the first aid course I am taking this week. Portions of our fire committee fundraising goes toward education. A good many of the full-time residents have taken advantage of the opportunity to be trained in emergency first aid. I have delayed it as long as I possibly could. I hate hate hate taking courses of any kind. My idea of hell is writing a test. Especially writing a test where inevitably all of my neighbours are going to know my score.

Lingering effects of Mrs. Swan’s grade three class when she posted everyone’s marks on the wall at the front of the room. The whole world discovering that I didn’t know my eight times tables stays with me, even today..

I need to know how much water we use in a winter months when the water is plentiful and I am having all the baths I want. Then, I can measure my garden needs next summer and see what we need annually. Same goes for propane and diesel. Now that most of the systems are in and working (knock on wood) we need to know where we stand.

Last October, the night before the kids came for Thanksgiving we ran out of propane and diesel. We filled the tanks when we picked them up at the ferry. We installed our new solar-powered fridge that weekend. This year when they come, they will find a reasonably functioning house, with walls and windows and everything!!

E changed the batteries on the weather station so it is up and running again,  measuring among other things, rainfall by the month..

We reset the water meter measuring our house water usage to zero this morning. The water tanks up top are sitting at 2100 gallons. The water tank under the house is at about 100 gallons. The diesel generator is one-third full and the propane tanks are sitting at about 100 LBs. I am dying to see where the numbers sit at the end of the month, indeed at the end of all of the winter months.

Winter is coming.

All systems go…




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to go anywhere

The island is emptying. Everyone else seems to have a plan for travelling far and wide. We are happy for them but we are only too thrilled to be staying here.

We really should get the exterior of the house finished before winter. But, as with all of the jobs we don’t enjoy, we had managed to ignore replacing the shakes as long as humanly possible. E began to replace the cedar shakes yesterday.

There are bare patches in various spots around the original house, as well as the front of the addition.  E will do one area a day until its finished. Some days it only takes a couple of hours, like yesterday around the guest room window.

Today’s portion around the kitchen window will take a little longer.

When we have enough water the ultimate plan is to power wash the entire house and then put a stain on the shakes to match the stain on the fir beams.

We will have plenty to keep us busy this winter. There is really no reason for us

to go anywhere