have to wait

May 12th, or as I call it fifteen weeks until my family can sit inside together at the dinner table. Everyone is now vaccinated and the sense of relief is great. I actually cried when I heard the last of my family had been able to get an appointment last week.

It was pouring rain when we woke up this morning so the plan was to have an indoor chore day with some cooking and a lot of cleaning. Our house looks, not surprisingly, like we have been working in the garden for five weeks while completely ignoring the basic needs of the interior of a home where two dogs live.

The water catchment system is still closed for pollen season so, although the rain is good for the garden, it is useless to the rain storage system. Hopefully June will bring big rains to top up the tanks for the summer.

Up at six, I put some pasta sauce on the stove to simmer, then fed my sourdough starter and baked two loaves of bread and a few cookies. It has been three weeks since we have been off island so I am deep into my pantry supplies. The 2020 canned tomatoes are almost finished. We had the first salad grown in the 2021 garden, last night. Sure there was not a lot of variety of ingredients but still it was a salad grown by me from seed and picked fresh from our garden.

As the bread was rising I considered sitting down with a coffee and maybe a cookie. I needed to think about cleaning and then choose a book to read for the first time this year but the rain stopped and the sun came out. We went back up to the garden. E had a tree he wanted to murder. It was really tall and although not particularly wide people kept hitting it on the driveway. I had tons of plants which needed to be potted up and lots I could do.

My sister in law grabbed me a couple of watermelon and cantaloupe plants, yesterday, which I am going to try growing for the first time. They are planted in huge containers in the greenhouse, as an experiment, which I can move outside as the summer progresses. The flowers will probably need some help with fertilization. When the time comes, I can show you how Anne taught me to do it.

By the time we got back to the house it was 3:30 and we hadn’t eaten since 6 am. Spaghetti with sauce from our 2020 garden served with a slice of warm bread became not so much an early bird dinner special as a fashionably late lunch.

Honestly, since we moved here, I never know what time it is. I rarely know what month it is and only know it is the weekend because of increased boat traffic. We design our timetable based on the job of the day. We start when the coffee pot is empty and finish when we get tired, whether it’s noon or 3:00. We do, however, always know when it is 4:00 pm. Work is always finished by 4:00 pm cause that wine isn’t going to drink itself or as we now refer to it, calling the whales.

The house cleaning is just going to

have to wait

Do some thinking

Through the magic of sound carrying across water we generally hear whales coming toward us before we see them. So as not to miss their distinct sound I find the best position, for me, is sitting in a comfy chair in the sun, on the deck, with my feet up and my eyes closed. It is similar to E’s daily afternoon thinking position but I call this my listening position. To the casual observer it might appear like I am sleeping but I can assure you that I am listening.

I am of the opinion that the whales are always in front of our house but sometimes, for reasons only known to them, they just want to stay hidden. I have just recently discovered a new method to encourage them to reveal themselves.

Last night we decided to splurge on an $8.00 wine to go with our steak dinner. Our homemade $5.00 brew just wasn’t going to cut it as a pairing for a juicy tenderloin meal. I had no sooner opened the bottle when a pod of maybe five Orca came through the narrows in front of us. Not particularly close but good enough for a bit of a show with binoculars and a good camera.

Imagine our surprise when we zoomed in and saw a lone humpback heading the opposite direction on the other side of the pod.

Until it is time to take the vegies out of the greenhouse and plant them outside, most of the work in the garden is done. Today we continued to tidy up the construction zone and put away the left over bits of lumber. It will all get used, eventually, but for the moment it doesn’t need to be spread all over the entrance to the property. It still isn’t spit spot but it isn’t likely we are going to have company coming around so we quit early and came back to the house so I could concentrate on listening and E could

do some thinking.

Idle very long

In the five weeks since we returned from E’s annual checkup in Vancouver with a clean bill of health in hand, he has been busy.

He finished the greenhouse complete with lighting and running water.

He built a gorgeous cedar rose arbor for the garden.

He built a railing around the porch of the bunkie to ensure that most of our guests remain at the top of the hill.

He replaced all the fencing around the garden, which he described as a job worse than drywalling, and he hates drywalling. Then, he finished up the month by building a new compost bin.

Today he packed up his carpentry tools and stored them away for a while. I suspect he is hoping for a rest, perhaps a gin and tonic or two on the deck.

We find it hilarious when people say they couldn’t retire as they can’t see themselves sitting around doing nothing all day. If that is what is stopping you from retiring, move to an off grid island!

E isn’t the only islander who works so hard. Typically, even if a house on this island is finished, which rarely happens, the owner might then build a workshop or a greenhouse or a gen shed or a bunkie or a storage shed or a new garden or a yoga studio or a sauna or a hotub deck or a … you get my point.

Everyone seems to have a project or two on the go and I think it is safe to say that E and I aren’t the only ones who start new ones before the other ones are finished.

Although everyone comes here for different reasons, most who live here like to build stuff and putter. Those that don’t then hire those that do. It’s a perfect arrangement. I would not be wrong to say that, at any given moment on almost every property on this island, there is a project about to be started, underway or just finished. Considering there are no stores and all of the materials need to be carried over here by boat it is all the more impressive.

I think I mentioned we brought a barge over in March with everything we would need for all of the projects on our list for 2021. E is only half way through the list. He won’t be

idle very long

A new normal

Life is, ever so gently, becoming normal again. We are 2.5 weeks post first vaccine and last night we visited, just four of us, around a campfire at my sister-in-law’s. First time in almost a year. Today, I loaded up all my seed tomatoes and drove around the island delivering vegetable plants to my friends. I can not remember the last time I visited six different properties and chatted with friends, let alone visited them all in one day. Wasn’t sure if I would remember how.

We were socially distanced and outside but there I was socializing none the less. Brief as the visits were, it is still about five properties more than I have visited in over a year. The conversations revolved entirely around gardening.

I have given away (traded) 43 tomato plants now and kept 21 for my own garden. My friend is giving me two different ones in trade for those I gave her. So 23 tomatoes this year will go in my garden. Last year I swore I wouldn’t grow more than 10 tomato plants. But, I have the room and enjoy having the variety, especially in my pasta sauce. I think the variety creates a unique flavour. I gave away 52 pounds of tomatoes to friends with no garden last year and will probably have enough to share again this year. So the plants go to those with gardens and the tomatoes go to those without. Everyone wins.

In return, I was offered alternate varieties of tomatoes, eggs, herbs of all sorts, a variety of peppers, and prawns. One new friend has just started her garden so the tomatoes were a garden warming gift. It’s all good. I love to share them and really like the idea that plants I have grown from seed are all over the island.

One friend suggested that I should grow vegie starts specifically to sell to her and to the islanders who grow vegetables. I kind of like the trading idea but maybe a little hobby growing vegetable starts and flowers could be born. Maybe earn enough money to support my gardening habit. Something to think about but, in the meantime, I have had fun this spring with my new greenhouse.

So now I move my greenhouse project to growing flower starts and plant divisions.

E has finished electrifying the new garden fence. This job involves installing a single wire around the top perimeter of the garden which administers a small shock when touched by masked bandits. It is powered by a small solar panel on a fence post. Both of us, over the years, have accidently touched it ourselves and although uncomfortable it is not life threatening to the intruders. So with our new fencing for the deer and wire for the raccoons we just need to finish the bottom perimeter to defeat the three bunnies which I saw today under the apple trees at my gate.

If there was to be anything which would get me to socialize these days, it was the opportunity to share plants and talk about gardens. I am not sure if we will ever feel comfortable traveling internationally, visiting indoors with people who won’t vaccinate, or sharing a mic at a New Year’s karaoke party in the fire hall, but today I enjoyed the beginning of the

the new normal

How it’s going

One friend gave us three months, another figured E’s health would send us back to the city before five years. We didn’t really know what to expect of the life we would have but it had been a dream of ours since our honeymoon and the simplicity of retiring to a townhouse was not working.

So, nine years ago today, in the pouring rain we moved to the complicated life that it is living off grid on an island. It is raining again today, but we are warm and happy and frankly a little surprised that nine years have passed. One friend came to see it nine years ago and has never been back, other friends love their time here and return to help with our projects. It isn’t for everyone and we get that. It certainly helps that we enjoy each other’s company because we are together all day every day.

The original cabin was owned by friends of E’s Dad. They were heartier souls than we are and had a cook stove , no running hot water and very few conveniences. It was a really sweet cabin down a windy path at the edge of a cliff on 2.2 acres. We instantly fell in love with it but immediately added a Bosch on-demand hot water system, a Pacific Energy air tight stove and an additional 1000 watts of solar panels. Our needs may be simple but we were too old to live without hot water, a warm fire in the winter or the NHL. Access to ice cream is always a challenge but we have learned to accept that in life we must carry a certain burden of suffering.

Fortunately the previous owners were gardeners and I was gifted with 22 years of composted soil and a garden brilliantly placed between two rock cliffs which block the wind and increase the heat. The owner specialized in growing Lilies and, although it was a fairly simple layout, it was surrounded by excellent deer fencing, and the deciding factor in our purchase of the property. I was just so unhappy without a garden in the townhouse.

The first order of business was to rototill the ground and the second was to install a seating area. For the life of me I do not understand people who have gardens with nowhere to sit. Whatever is a garden for if not a place to enjoy the sights and sounds which the flowers bring? Yes, I know, food. Gardens can be just a place to grow food but even a vegetable garden needs a place to rest while tasting a fresh tomato.

We then added a porch to the garden shed and pathways and a pond and now an arbour and a greenhouse. I love my time in the garden and E certainly enjoys his pond! I am forever grateful to and think of the previous owners often when I dig into the beautiful soil they left me.

Our third year here we hired John to put in a driveway down to the house with his excavator. Guests (grandchildren) could then safely get down the hill to our house with boulders at the edge to prevent unintentional cliff diving. If need be we can now drive to our door, although we rarely do.

Our fifth year here we started the big renovation of the cabin. I needed a deck where I could watch the wildlife and was desperate for a bathtub in a guest friendly bathroom. Our original bathroom was in our bedroom so guests would have to walk past our bed during the night to have a pee.. There is a gorgeous outhouse with the best view in the land but it is on the edge of a cliff and not appealing to my city slicker friends at 4 am. E wanted a house with foundations and a deck where we could entertain but the man appreciates a good soak in the tub as much as me.

We sold our share in the family home here on the island and with the design help from Tom, the construction skills of Craig, and a lot of help from friends and family we were left to live the rest of our days in our dream home by the sea.

So many of our old friends have asked us what it is we do all day. I thought it might be time for a quick photo tour of how it started and

how its going

about their affections

The goal was simple today. The compost area needed to be cleaned out and the rose beds prepped for their new residents before the rains come tomorrow night. Nothing like a couple of days of solid rain to make plants feel welcome in their new home. E needed to finish the fencing in that corner and hang the lattices. Years ago he gave me a gardening book called Vertical Gardening. I am calling on that inspiration to cover the unsightly water tank. You can imagine how it is going to look. The plants from left to right are: The First Lady pink Clematis (Lattice), Honeysuckle , Julie Andrews pink rose, Climbing White Eden rose (Lattice), Honeysuckle (Lattice). It was a good job to get done and I look forward to the picture I can post next year when it is a wall of scented beauty. Guests going in and out of the bunkie will hopefully appreciate a scented walk to the door.

We had medical reasons to go into town this week so we did a big shop with Save On while we were there and had the groceries delivered curbside. I find the process incredibly convenient and safe. At my leisure I can scan their web site and pick out anything on my master list which is on sale and bulk buy for the coming winter. Yes, that’s what I said. I am already thinking about and planning for next winter. Any potential covid exposure in town yesterday was minimal. Ironically, if it wasn’t for medical issues, we would never have had to leave the island this year at all. We don’t expect to go to town now for months.

Greenhouse is proving to be a whole lot of fun. Tiny seeds are turning into little green plants. It’s so fun to watch. Another month and they will be ready to go in the garden. I have optimistic plans for future experiments.

I ordered seed potatoes with the intention of growing them in potato bags. There isn’t enough space to grow them in the beds. Someone planted flowers in a lot of the vegetable beds. So thought I would give bags a try. I am going to put them in front of the new rose bed. Soil is ready and the bags are set to go but the seed potatoes are still in transit. So frustrating! Thinking ahead, I wonder if I could use the mouse proof greenhouse as cold storage in the winter for potatoes, carrots and apples. What do you think?

The peas are up six inches in the garden, and the lettuce and spinach will be ready soon. There is asparagus up and the rhubarb looks healthy and abundant. Even the garlic is doing well. We went prawning this week and got enough for a nice dinner. We will maybe try to go out once a week to augment the dinner menus… I have jars and jars of food in the pantry, which I canned last summer, but haven’t touched… We are not going to starve.

The Otter have opened a nightclub in the rocks under our deck. They are not shy. There is a lot of “flirting” going on with some of the otter quite open

about their affections.