Off Grid Islander

Living off the Grid on a west coast island


look great though

It is 29 degrees in our house and probably 35 degrees in the garden.. E has some work to do at a neighbours so he goes over when their house is in the shade in the late afternoon. 

One of the unexpected perks of our new driveway is the new seating area it has provided. With both daytime shade and an awesome view,  it has everything I like in a place to read my book.


Between E’s growing list of projects, he is working on the greenhouse… it is coming along.. Unfortunately the success of the locale choice for its access to sunshine limits the time he can work on it during the hottest days of summer.Once the days cool I am sure it will be finished in no time..But, during the days now its too darned hot up there. Ignore the picture, it is honestly usually in the sun!!!.  It is going to be really an interesting experiment to see how long my summer growing season can be extended when the greenhouse is finished… 

 Our intention is to only use the driveway as a driveway on propane hauling days and to get down to our front door when we are in our late nineties, so having access to another grassy flattish area has been a plus. Last weekend we put our books down and celebrated the last Tragically Hip concert in style on our driveway with twenty, fifty somethings at sunset. E hooked four big speakers into our TV sound system and showed the taped concert on the tv outside. I guess with the area completely surrounded by rocks the sound system sounded particularly good and if you interview the people across the water in Ladysmith I am sure they would agree. It was truly a memorable experience and I am sure that if I could remember anything about that night… it would be the experience itself…unfortunately it’s been four days and we are still recovering…

the pictures look great though:)






be about tomatoes

There you are. I was wondering if you would still be here when I got back…  Summer is coming to an end and I am back to my writing. My  first return post will be of no interest to anyone who doesn’t like tomatoes. Tomatoes are all that is going on here and I need to record my progress for posterity… And for those of you who also grow tomatoes there will be a test at the end, be forewarned…:)

When we last spoke I had started tomatoes from seeds and set my wee seedlings in the cold frame. I ended up with 141 successful tomato plants. Of those, I planted 48 in my own garden and gave away 93 to various friends and neighbours. Lynne gave me three different ones. I planted a total of 51 in the garden. Eleven different varieties with varying levels of success. (this is where the questions will come later)….

I had Pollock, Yellow Pear, Paul Robeson, Indigo Rose, Ruth’s Perfect, Pattys Yellow, Yellow Wonder Light, Pink Brandywine, Roma, Berkely Tie Dye, and Cosmonaut Volkov.

The disappointments first:

  1. All of the tomatoes I planted at SOHO were a dismal failure with literally no produce. The one tomato I planted in a pot in my garden produced nothing, nada, zero…      The Berkley Tie Dye were interesting but I only got a few.img_1924.            Ruth’s Perfect were less than perfect.. I had 6 plants and got about 10 tomatoes in total. Indigo Rose is very very late but more beautiful than tasty..img_1823


The successes

I loved the Yellow Wonder Light. They were early and prolific. A very sweet addition to my sauce. The Paul Robeson (left) and Small African Black (right) were delicious,img_1805 as was the Yellow Pear. All three I got from Lynne. Thank you!!

The Cosmonaut Volkov were big beefsteak, early tomato. They were by far my  biggest producer. img_1747The Pink Brandywine were indeed pink and a larger variety.

The Roma’s of course are prolific but are just coming ripe now. The yellow from Patty is a medium size, perfectly round tasty variety..

The Pollock’s started out as disappointing as they were purported to be early but they are just coming now and I’m getting quite a few. Maybe this summers cooler temps are to blame… Quite delicious on a sandwich though…..  I have a cream cheese, pesto and tomato sandwich every day so I have had the opportunity to test each tomato for sandwichability.. It’s the least I can do….

I am currently picking a bowl full of tomatoes a day. Every second day I make sauce and every fourth day, I can the sauce.Each sauce has a minimum of 6 types of tomatoes blended.. So far, I have 15 pint jars and 5 quart size in the pantry.. This large number could be deceiving in that this is pure tomato sauce which has not been thickened as I prefer to save the propane as I know the pasta sauce/chili or soup will thicken as it simmers on the wood stove in the winter….

Here is how I make my pure sauce. I use this base for almost everything we eat in the winter. Soups, pastas, chilis…

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So now for the questions.. To all of you who grow tomatoes both off and on the island.. How did you make out? What were your favorites? For those who grew tomatoes which I started.. How did they do?  I won’t be offended if they were terrible.. I am saving seeds for next year and would like to know which ones are worth my time…

So I am back!!  Lots going on this winter, please keep reading.  I promise it won’t all

be about tomatoes…







Have no regrets

As Grandma P would say, it’s no picnic getting old, but it’s better than the alternative. Despite our best of intentions more than a few of us have to eventually park our inhibitions and privacy at the doors of a hospital facility and trust that we will be cared for with dignity. It has been my experience, that the majority of the nursing staff are incredibly patient and kind. Although I trust the medical team and welcome their care, until my Mom can go home, my siblings and I choose to be very involved in the day to day management of her care.

For the majority of the week that my Mom has been in the hospital there has been at least two of her children, often times all three of us at her bedside. We are mindful to stay out of the nurses way, while aiding Moms comfort in any way we can. This can mean, adding an occasional blanket when she’s cold or helping her to brush her teeth. Today, I am able to return to the island knowing my Mother is in good hands.. I am aware that in this I am fortunate.. 

Because it was the weekend, it was quiet on the ward when I got there. Mom had a four bed ward to herself. My brother siezed the opportunity and asked for her bed to be moved to the window so Mom could see the blue skies. We waited until the nurses were at a quiet moment and helped them with the move….Mom was thrilled, bonus points to him for thinking of it.

A very confused, very tiny older gentleman who was likely a policeman in his youth wheeled his chair into the ward and shook his menacing finger in my brothers face and warned “You hurt that woman, you are a dead man!!!!”…… We assured him that she was our Mom and my brother was there to care for her…The officer sighed and wheeled out of the room..

A very confused and timid older woman wheeled her chair into Moms room and looked at my brother, then at my Mom, and back to my brother asking “can I get into bed with her?” My brother suggested it wasn’t a good idea and so she wheeled out of the room…

Between these random stranger visits, our three children were all able to visit Mom and my sister brought in Moms tiny little dog… It wasn’t the Mother’s Day activities of her dreams but we made the best of it.

Last night, after twelve hours beside my Mom, my kids treated me to dinner at my favorite Greek restaurant in L. For twenty seven years, I have always ordered lamb souvlaki, medium rare… Since I now have hand fed baby lamby on the farm, I ordered Tiger Prawn Souvlaki and it was delicious.. Not the same as lamb  but every bit as good.

Mother’s Day in the hospital is by no means a picnic, but life is, what it is and so we adjusted our expectations and took the opportunity to treasure our family for every damn minute we have each other..and for this we will 

  have no regrets 


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Baby, her Mom

Our relationship had a rocky start. 

Her postpartum depression, delayed my homecoming. Grandma, travelled by train from Vancouver to help out. Days passed. Grandma suggested a family picnic in the park across the street from the hospital. With the two older children, my Grandma and Dad on the blanket enjoying their day in the sunshine, Mom looked at the hospital and suggested she was ready to have her third come home. 

They left me alone with her for the first time while Grandma and Dad took the others to the Calgary Stampede. Mom, tried to give me a bath to stop the incessant crying. She noticed I wasn’t moving my right arm, it hung limp. She called the Doctor and from her description he insisted I be taken to the emergency ward immediately. I had osteomyelitis in my shoulder, a serious infection of the bone marrow brought on by a staff infection through the umbilical cord in the delivery ward. I spent the next three months in the intensive care nursery. Fifty nine years later, I had the shoulder replaced.

The world is divided into two types of people who travel as foot passengers on the ferry. The ones who line up to board long before the ferry has docked and those that sit comfortably in the lounge until the crowds have gone to then walk on at leisure. As you can well imagine, I fall into the second group. Christmas music on my IPod reminds me that it’s been a while since I travelled alone. We had whales on the local seas here last night so I was in no rush to board the ferry, choosing instead to watch out the window for a fin or two. Even if there are whales there it would be hard to see them amidst the many white caps spread before me.

I am on the ferry to visit my Mom who is back in the hospital. It is a gorgeous yet very windy day here on the water. My brother is picking me up at the terminal. I am staying with my friend Didi and my three kids will visit Mom and I at the hospital over the weekend.

Mom and I spent the next 55 years living within a block or two of each other. After the initial rocky start, she became my strongest ally. Nothing like the threat of losing her, reminds a Mom that she loves her baby, or a 

baby her Mom 



Mom, take care

It’s late at night. (Midnight) and I can’t sleep. Too much wine, perhaps or maybe just too much on my mind.

Came home from a wonderful dinner at our neighbours, maybe I shouldn’t have had that last glass of wine.. It was simple fare, shared with good friends, a relaxing evening .. Five friends, three dogs..

Here on the blog, I have some catching up to do.

This week we started with a 5 am whale visit. At least eight swimming in front of the house from 5 until 6 am. Flat calm waters, early sunrise no one but us to witness the relaxed morning play of an extended family of whales.. Here on the nature channel it could have become routine after four years but it is anything but.. I would apologize that the video isn’t national geographic standard but you have to understand it was 5am and  perfect video or not they were under my window!!!……. Mom and Babe… Briefly…..

We have had otters making wild passionate love sex outside our BEDROOM window at night (this is a sound you don’t want to hear), we have had the juvenile eagle fighting with his parents on our roof, we have had  gorgeous sunny trips through the narrows and beach glass combing on the shores at SoHo. This week held it all..

I have given away, ( I kid you not) ninety-two  tomato plants and kept forty for my own garden. I still have fifteen available.. Anyone?? Anyone???? You can imagine how much I like pasta sauce when you hear how many tomatoes I grow. I will be canning most of them and next winter will be living on that gorgeous sweet sauce.

E was busy watching hockey going on, so I took the opportunity to bond with my humming birds. For those of you who want to try this at home… Mix three (not four) parts water with one part sugar. Put it in a red lid with the yellow bits from a legit humming bird feeder….


I came home to check the news. They have evacuated the town of Fort McMurray due to wildfires. Our eldest son is a wild fire fighter. He has been on duty since March 15. In six weeks he has been on an active fire for three of them and on call for one… He will get a day off on Saturday, his first in twenty… Fourteen of them with fourteen hour days. It’s only the first of May… Geez its going to be another brutal summer…He sent me this picture… He had set a pipe on a fire line one day and came back the next morning to check on it…. A Grizzley had been by… Our son is 200 pounds and doesn’t make a dent in the mud…

It is almost one and I should be asleep. But I worry.. It is who I am.. I worry about my kids, I worry about my Mom and truth be told I worry about my siblings… But tonight my eldest is off fire and our other two are safe. Tonight it’s all about my

Mom, take care

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I’ve killed Mike

I hate talking on the phone. I have since I spent 8 hours a day with people calling me and asking me to do things for them..Once retired, I never wanted to answer a phone again. But when we moved here I made an exception for my Mom. Every couple of days I would call to check in. Truth be told I never really had anything of interest for her. I had started the blog as a way to keep her posted on the goings on here so once she had read the latest entry I never had much knew to report in a phone call.

Our conversations often revolved around the weather, my kids or the latest hockey game until I started to play with writing stories. My Mom, an avid reader had at ninety four read murder mysteries her whole life. A book a day, she ate them up faster than the library could get them in. My sister was always on the hunt for a new author or a new series that could keep her entertained. I think the term voracious reader would be appropriate for both her and I. But we had never tried to write.

I had been hemming and hawing on the blog about what I was going to do to keep it interesting once I had pretty much covered all of the basics of our learning curve. The idea of a fictional story came up as a possibility. I got an email that morning from my Mom with notes for an outline of a possible premise for the book.. I phoned her to bash some ideas about and she reminded me that I had to also have characters on the island that I don’t like, as well as the easy stories of the ones that I do.  I lamented that I couldn’t just have all these random characters on the island, something would have to happen.. We agreed, someone is going to have to get murdered.. …My mother thought my writing a book was a brilliant idea. Great encouragement indeed from my English teacher Mother whose usual comments about my writing involved my poor grammar. Nothing bothers her more than my misuse of laying and lying.

The second character I introduced was based not unentirely on my father. I worried when I pressed publish that Mom would be angry with me. It was pretty easy to see through the thinly disguised description of the man. Mechanical engineer instead of electrical, it wasn’t too far a stretch to see who I was talking about. I originally named him Lee, my fathers middle name. After proofing it and before I pressed publish I realized I was going to murder him. 

Almost every man I have ever disliked or had difficulties with in my life was named Mike. There was a Robert once and I will have to make sure I include his particularly annoying character in an upcoming adventure. It isn’t that I don’t like all Mikes it is just if I don’t like him, his name is usually Mike.. It’s simple matter of logic.

The afternoon I published the story with the new character my phone rang and the caller display read my Mom. I picked it up expecting a long lecture about basing a character so obviously on my father, and that perhaps too much was revealed about our family history.. But instead my mother opens with…. I killed Mike…..

Mom enthusiastically suggested how she imagined we could kill our first character… She finished the conversation I won’t do this again, but killing Mike was fun……


At first sight

E was having a nap and I was writing a blog post. I could heard a mouse in the den and I stood up to investigate. Outside the living room window I noticed a double kayak sitting in front of the house… Good weather and kayakers go hand in hand around this end of the island.  When I came back from mouse hunting the kayak was suspiciously still…  I got out my binoculars.. (As you do)… Low and behold the boat was empty…

DSCN0093“Excuse me… Is that your kayak? ”  I yelled over to the women on  Link.. They had just woken up from their nap in the sunshine to discover their kayak had gone on a little adventure and was slowly making its way to the Narrows.  “Would you like help?” I added…   E woke up and drove to the other side of the island to grab our boat. 


They were very grateful.

We have lived on this island exactly four years. The day we arrived it was pouring rain.. Our sons helped us and we all got soaked.. Today, it was a beautiful day.

After four years our daily schedules are quite routine depending on the season. In the spring, I spend most days in the garden. E knocks away at the to-do list. Today he was finishing the water seal on the deck at the house.  I was finishing up with the tomato plants. I have potted up forty tomatoes for my garden. They are sitting in the cold frame until the  long weekend in May when they will go in the garden.. I am not sure where I am going to find room to put them all but I will try.  I have given away eighty plants to my friends on the island. Bless their hearts for taking them off my hands!  I have about twenty left to go.. If I have missed anyone or if any of you have room for more let me know… Please. !!  :)

We have sent the island newsletter to the printers by email and will pick it up tomorrow when I go to physio. The women at Tuesday knit night can help me stuff the envelopes and I can put the newsletter in the mail on Wednesday. Thrilled to have it off my list of things to do.. 

I have deleted the post I began before the whole mouse hunt/kayak rescue events of the last hours. In retrospect you wouldn’t have been interested in the topic.. Best left alone.


The four years have been good ones. “They” say one of the secrets for a long and happy life is having a reason to get up..We have a lot of them and most of them involve trying keep the house warm, the systems working and the food and wine flowing. I suspect another secret to happiness is a little bit of spontaneous kayak rescuing on the high seas.

We have may have only been living on this island full time for four years, but I have been coming here since 1982. I came the first time with Papa and E on the sailboat a week before our wedding. 

For me, it was with both this island and with E, love

 at first sight.


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