Off The Grid

Living off the Grid on a west coast island


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but read books

I wasn’t going to write anything today, what with kids coming to visit and celebrations in the works for the twins birthday. DSCN1669

But I feel any confusion I might have left out there needs to be cleared up..

Point of fact, voices carry over the water. We can hear all of the conversations you are having while you kayak our beautiful coastline. I have heard about the problems you have had with your boss and your neighbour. I know your Christmas vacation plans and all about your husband/wife/spouses unwillingness to join you while you learn to kayak.

On the whole people are generally quite complimentary of the house as they take pictures. Well they have been this year. Last year, I heard a man quite arrogantly pronounce to his companions that our back deck was about to fall into the drink…But today was a first and I really do need to clear up any confusion I may have left you with.

Have I in any way left you with the impression that we sit about here all day with nothing to do, nothing to fix and no problems to solve? Have I implied this life is easy? That living off the grid is some sort of  lazy path to endless hours with idle chatter about the weather? Have I? If I have, I am very sorry, that is incorrect.

I was just putting the final icing on the first of two birthday cakes I am making this week, when a group of kayakers stopped beneath the house to chat and take pictures..  I heard one of them, perhaps the guide explain to his group that the house they were in front of (ours) is off the grid. The owners get their power from generators and solar panels. The water comes from wells. I was nodding to myself , yes, yes that’s right…

Then he said, and I shit you not……

Wouldn’t you like to live in a house like that? Do nothing all day

but read books….

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blog writes itself

“When we took the dog sled team down the Yukon to the next town.”

My dinner companion last night began her story with that sentence. I looked up and blurted out that I could feel a blog posting coming. So began one of the more interesting evenings I have spent on this island.

Ten of the women had gathered at my friends for a dim sum dinner around her massive farm style dining table. The pot luck concept applied to Chinese food. The selection of food was varied and delicious. As we feasted, the conversation began with the question posed “How many here have driven a motorcycle?” Several hands went up. The topic then evolved from the most unusual life experience to include a discussion about the most dangerous or scary situation we had ever found ourselves. Those times in our life where we had faced a challenge and afterward had thought.. Yikes…..!

“The summer I worked as a deck hand on a fish boat out of Prince Rupert.”
“When I was airlifted out of Ghana after the military coup in 1982”
“I was held by two men with sawed off shotguns in a Caribbean banana field”
“Separated for hours from my tour group in a bazaar in India”
“Invited for lunch with the Queen (of England).”

I paraphrase but you get the idea. The stories which followed those opening sentences were as interesting as you can imagine. The table sat in respectful silence as each woman shared her adventure. As the turns were taken and the tales told,  it became very clear that I was sitting with some extraordinary women. There is a lot more to them than knitting and tomatoes. My mother told me to surround myself with interesting women. Women of substance.  I did as I was told.

We have come to this island from a variety of backgrounds.  No one really talks about their past, conversations more focused on problem solving. I’ve lived here six years and knew that my next door neighbour was a great quilter but I had no idea she has a proclivity for paragliding and risk taking.

It was a really interesting evening and one I thoroughly enjoyed. This morning eleven of us turned up for yoga. It was not a day for risky adventures but reflective appreciation for the lives we have been given.

Sometimes this

blog writes itself

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you share it

I have been asked countless times how I could possibly live on an island with no stores. The implication being that stores are the great reason to continue living in the city… No one has ever asked me how I could live on an island with no theatre, hockey rink or restaurants.. If they did, then I might answer that there are indeed things I sometimes miss about the city.

Over the years we usually had season tickets to the Arts Club, would spend our unused travel dollars on Canuck tickets and were partial to good Greek food on a night out. We lived in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and we enjoyed what it had to offer while we had it.. The variety of stores and opportunities to shop were never part of that enjoyment’.

I sat on the deck yesterday talking with a friend. E was working on his wife’s computer and they were inside. Now this friend would be the first to admit we have had our difficulties finding topics on which we agree. We come from very different back grounds and have led very different lives, yet here we are enjoying the shade of the deck on a perfectly lovely afternoon.

On this island, the residents have come from all over the world (this friend included) and they all continue to like to travel. They come from every possible occupation and everyone (but E and I) seems to have led such interesting lives. E and I often have nothing to contribute to conversations until they get back to septic or compost.

But yesterday, yesterday.. My friend and I came upon the most unlikely of common ground in our conversation. We were discussing how there really isn’t much that we need. No reason to shop.. If we did go to a store, there is nothing we could conceivably add to our lives that we are missing which would make this life better. But then as if at the same moment we said, but shoes, we could really use some new shoes!!!

I cannot tell you how hard this island is on shoes. Walking all day, every day on rock and gravel takes its toll. When we walk the dogs at night I can feel every rock and every pebble through the sole of my shoe. E shoes are worn through too, and so apparently are my friends.

Now I can see the purpose of a store. A building which you could go into and leave with something reliable for your feet.

Now island shoes have requirements. They need to be slip on. We are constantly in and out of our friends houses. No one likes to take the time to tie laces in a crowd at the door as you are leaving a get together.

Good tread. The shoes have to have good tread for jumping on and off boats. Walking up and down slippery docks and rocky shores can be perilous if you can’t rely on your foot wear for stability.

If not water proof they need to be mud proof. Canvass isn’t going to do the trick when walking down the river bed that is my driveway in the winter. Sure I have gum boots and they are fine sometimes.. But I am talking… walking around shoes..

Stylin, they gotta look good when heading into the city for groceries. I can’t be seen hanging out at the Save On cashier in gum boots. It’s bad enough I am head to toe dressed in flannel. I have some standards!

So my friend and I commiserated with each other as to where will we find such a shoe…. As E and the wife finished with the computer, the husband and I finished our conversation.  I told him E and I hoped to get some Blundstones in Vancouver next month. I promised to tell my friend where we are able to find them and if they fit the bill.  Whether its your septic system, truck alternator, or footwear…… on this island if you find the solution to a problem,

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our lucky number

Pick a number between one and ten. You probably always pick the same number. Your lucky number, if you will. The number you always picked for your team jersey. We all know Gretsky’s and Lindens. E wore eight on his hockey jersey. IMG_0034

Mine was 22. The number on my cloakroom hook all the way through elementary school. Alphabetically, I was the 22nd in my class. Probably academically too, but we don’t need to dwell on that, let’s move on…

The weather continues to “force” us to read, nap and take these days off from chore duty. I have read two books this week which I feel I can recommend. They are very different from my normal fare. One was recommended to me by Alison next door. Written by Gail Honeyman “Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine”. It reminded me slightly of “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion which I also thoroughly enjoyed.

I began “Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine” at 10 am last week and finished it at 5:30 pm the same day. One of those great days in the shade, expectantly turning every page of a book, enjoying myself thoroughly.  I accomplished virtually nothing else all day. A good read.

Today, I finished a book from my sister-in-laws book club on the North Shore. They have the best reading list!. It was by Kate Morton, “The Secret Keeper”. Again, I thoroughly enjoyed it. She is an Australian author, not normally in my radar as her book jackets suggest to me she would be all romancey and shit but… to my liking there was a murder in the first chapter and I was hooked. I will give her other books a shot and try to be a bit more open-minded.. Not judging books by their flowery covers and all…

As much as E and I enjoy these lazy days together, living our best lives, enjoying the moment, not putting off til tomorrow and all the other clichés. We are ever reminded of what brought us here. To this day, to this place. Nothing more important than our kids, their health, each other, our health, our friends and their health.. Money, savings, possessions.. all irrelevant.. It’s the today and the now that counts.

Yesterday, our Doctors and the support staff at the St. Paul’s hospital transplant clinic celebrated their 500th heart transplant. 500 people out there with a second chance!  E was number 163, March 22, 2000.

Forever more, 163 is our lucky number

 

 


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wash my feet

When my Mom was retired at sixty she started Tai Chi. She was a decidedly unathletic woman but she enjoyed the pace of it and eventually worked up to having her own sword  (that’s a Tai Chi thing). Later, in her eighties she recovered from an ugly operation unusually quickly because, the Doctor said, her legs were so strong from Tai Chi that they took over the hearts job when it was weak.

When E had his heart transplant, the Doctors suggested that what saved him (other than the gift of life) was that his legs were strong from playing hockey and were able to take over the hearts job of pumping blood when his heart was unable. I have a point to these anecdotes, stay with me.

Do you remember the movie from the sixties, Walk Don’t Run, with Carey Grant and Jim Hutton. No? that’s okay, here is a brief synopsis. Guy goes to the Tokyo Olympics as a competitor in the walking race… Hilarity ensues…

The women on the island walk most days around the island and they look a little like the race scene in Walk Don’t Run. They walk like Jim Hutton. I do not.

When I walk, the descriptive word is more likely ramble, mosey or wander. Walking the dogs, E patiently forces himself to impersonate a snail and we often look like a Japanese couple in the 1800’s with me always three steps behind. Although we make it work, I don’t think I can ever up the pace to participate with the WOW (woman who walk) speed..

The women here (they are a fit bunch) also do yoga and kayak and bike and well, as I’ve said before, can seemingly do anything. I am out of my league.. But after feeling like Sh*t for the last month I thought perhaps I could try the yoga with the women and see if I could work my way up to a downward dog or an upright cat while I strengthen my leg muscles.

The women who really know what they are doing with yoga met at the island yoga studio of one of our own on Tuesday. On Thursday, there was a restorative session held at another’s deck for a less strenuous class. Imagine if you will, a beautiful deck perched at the edge of a cliff on a calm warm morning. Seven women with their mats in front of our instructor who patiently brings us to our centre of calm.. I spent a relaxing rejuvenating stretching hour in my first attempt to get with the yoga program and try to take better care of myself and strengthen my legs. It was lovely, Patty (our leader) was patient and kind.

At the end, as we all lay motionless on the deck, a float plane flew closely overhead. I am sure they all thought we had “drunk the kool aid” as we all relaxed in the corpse position (my personal favorite).

The whole experience was lovely and I have every intention to practice at home and return to class next week. But considering my lack of water and limited sponge bath options at our house right now, I only wish they had told me that the common practice when doing yoga was to take your shoes off.. If I had known, I would have

washed my feet

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In this together

In what seems like a lifetime ago, we poured foundations under our house as the first step of an eighteen month,   life long project to renovate this house. A very large gang of our friends came out on a cold March morning to heave that pail and tote that bucket. Much like the barn raising days of old, it is “what is done”.

We seem to have been on a prolonged receiving end of the give and take, pay it forward attitude this island enjoys. Hopefully, with a very long lifetime ahead for us here, we will have plenty of time to repay the hours of labour our friends have willingly provided.

Our neighbour is now building a gen shed worthy of withstanding the possibility, if unlikely, of the upcoming zombie apocalypse. Stacked cinder blocks were used to initially build the walls. Yesterday, twelve of the herniated, bad backed, arthritic, sore shouldered, bum footed islander men happily converged on the property in their favorite cement pouring ensemble.  They filled the walls with cement and then poured the cement roof. Many hands make the work possible for this group, average age sixty-five.. Oldest just eighty,  the youngest in his early fifties… One guy showed up who has only lived on the island for five days…. A pulley, in the trees was rigged to deal with the height issues for the roof.

They met at eight am.. Two cement mixers going at once. Eleven bags of cement and 2.5 yards of navy jack later, they were finished by eleven-thirty. Hamburgers on the barby,  for everyone as a thank you and they were all at their homes by noon. Likely, hot showers and Robaxacet for everyone. A good mornings work with buddies for a good friend and neighbour.

Everyone is more than happy to show up and pitch in, if they can..

We are all, as it seems,

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midnight and 7AMw

I will be completely honest here. Although, I try desperately to be a nice person, I am often unsuccessful. Take for example, my reaction to the weather forecast for this weekend, I am delighted that rain is expected.

I know, I know. It is the long weekend. Everyone is expecting guests. Everyone has plans. Our islanders are looking forward to an outside concert on Saturday night and on Sunday there is a potluck lunch with the annual AGM, at the field next to the fire hall. All activities which will be less fun for everyone if it is raining.

But my plants are dying, my trees are brown, the pond water level is dropping. I can’t bathe or wash my dishes and we are down to 400 gallons of water in our tanks.. The new puppy alone, drinks a gallon a day.

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E remembered that on the July 1st weekend, we had some rain and we captured the water in the tank under our house from the rain water catchment system. Not enough to trigger the pump and move the water up to the top of the hill but there was some.. So E went under the deck and forced the pump on. Once the deck tank was empty we checked the tanks up top and we were up 250 gallons.

We now have 650 gallons of water to last us the summer. But, and its a big but, there is rain forecast for this weekend and we have the opportunity of catching maybe another 250 gallons. That could make the difference of whether we have canned tomatoes to eat in the winter or not… An occassional personal shower in August would be nice too… Not so much for us, as for our friends who have to sit near us…

It is 7pm and 30 degrees in the house. A little rain would go a long way in clearing up the stagnant air. I am not a hot weather girl… I am a smelly, rainy weather girl who really needs some water in my tanks.

I will be selfishly hoping this weekend that we get a ton of hard rain. In an ongoing effort to be empathetic and nice to my friends, with all of their long weekend plans, I will hope for them, that the predicted rain comes between

midnight and 7AM.

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just in case

A few months ago I mentioned our boat was in the shop after the engine seized up during a simple flat calm trip home from the city. E was alone in the boat and everything was going along as it should, when off of the outside of the U37 marker can, the engine went gasp, cough, choke …. dead… No warning, no reason… nothing… It is a Yamaha 150 four-stroke. Although we had a kicker (Yamaha 9.9 4 stroke), it didn’t start either.

Our friend Tim came out and towed him into the Cove (thank you!) and the next day C-Tow towed us to the mechanic at our Marina in town. Our boat insurance covered the tow fee ($700.00). Every year we get one free tow. However, if we had a membership in C-Tow the membership fee is only $250.00 with a free tow.

After a week in the shop the diagnosis wasn’t good. Engine dead, mort, no more. We had to buy a new engine. While we were at it, we had the boat cleaned and painted, new zincs and, as they say, in for a penny in for a pound,  we bought a new kicker. You cannot live here, full-time without a reliable boat. At least, I will not. Middle of the night, you get a kidney stone (as I am want to do).. you need a boat which is going to start, first time every time, most weather situations.

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We share the boat with my sister-in-law. Sharing, halves the pain to the chequing account.. With many properties on the island shared, and many families on the island with more than one property, a few of us share our boats in this way.

Although, we had spent a lot of money every year on the engine maintenance, it was nine years old and we had put a lot of hours on it during the reno. The old boy had 680 hours on it at time of death….E’s brother sells insurance and when we contacted him to claim the tow fee he encouraged us to put in a claim for the engine. … We had bought the engine new and had all of the receipts for our regular maintenance.. E sent them in and we crossed our fingers.

The reason we are in such a good mood today is the insurance company called and they are basically covering most of the cost of the new engine ($$$$$). They were able to sell the broken one for parts so that probably helped. Happy dance, Happy dance.

I could say the moral of the story is to have an honest mechanic who will testify about your regular engine maintenance to the insurance company, or maybe I would say the moral is to keep every mechanic receipt or maybe it is to stay away from marker U37. But in this case, the moral of the story is to always send in an insurance claim when you know you have done nothing wrong,

just in case

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our Community Association

We have a Community Association which essentially began and continues to exist, to protect our island from the devastation of a wild-fire.

The islanders pooled their talents and money and with a lot of financial support from BC Lotteries we built and maintain an amazing volunteer fire department.

We have a gorgeous fire hall on leased land (very generous terms). We have a fire truck with of all the equipment for both fire fighting and emergency medical aid which one could need. We have  two defibrillators, back boards, wheelchairs, and crutches.

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Fundraising includes an annual raffle of an afghan or quilt made by the talented women of the island.

Recent fundraising has gone toward the purchase of eight 2000 gallon water tanks. These tanks are placed strategically around the island and filled during the winter from the island pond. This addresses the likelihood of needing to suppress a fire on the island, in the late summer months when wells are dry and personal storage tanks empty.

The mandate of our volunteer fire department is to contain any wildfire until BC Wildfire can get here. They are meant to try to keep things under control not to fight structure fires. To that end, we have enabled at least thirty of our islanders to take the S100 course in basic fire suppression. We have also supported twenty or so residents to get their basic first aid. Fire practices are held bi-weekly during the summer. Everyone is welcome to attend,  and we are fortunate to be led by one of our residents who is a retired BC Fire Chief.

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I, personally, think the men and women who fight wildfires are awesome, and I would say that, even if my son wasn’t one of them. He is currently deployed and we work very hard at not worrying about him… !!!

Anyone living in these conditions is acutely aware of the danger which these ongoing temperatures create for our island. Today, our neighboring island was saved by their volunteer department and three BC wildfire helicopters and their crews who attended. I am so sorry for the family who lost their home but grateful the island was saved. A scary reminder for us all.

We are very proud of our volunteer Fire Department. Not bad at all for an island of 450 acres, 180 properties, 90 cabins and 80 paid up members in

our Community Association

 


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if you will

As a person who rarely attended science class in high school, I am unable to tell you anything about the life cycle of an eagle. Since moving here though, I have picked up a few things watching the avian family next door.

Small Fry ( Glenn Frey, the Eagles … get it?) was a baby when we moved here. He had absolutely no white markings on his head. We watched him over the last five years as his head eventually became completely white and he is beautiful, if not somewhat whiney. Lately, he and the peregrine falcon spend a good portion of the day bickering. Why an eagle is afraid of a falcon, one-third his size, I couldn’t tell you but there you go.. I’ve never seen it happen before.  The bickering has been going on constantly all summer. Apparently it’s a thing. I will try to get a video of one of their battles in the tree by our garden for you.

Today, after lunch there was a huge black bird swooping around the water off our deck. Wasn’t the ugly turkey vultures, too big for a hawk or falcon. I got the camera (as you do) and got a picture of him walking around on the cliff at the cut.

I would like to introduce you to Deacon, the latest cast member of the nature channel show. I look forward to sharing his progress with you. Here is his three-month picture. His nature channel head shot, if you will

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