Off The Grid

Living off the Grid on a west coast island


or two off

E went under the house to plumb the water boiler into the system and remembered we had procrastinated putting the insulation under the flooring of the new room. He couldn’t ignore it any longer so spent the last several days on his back in a 36 inch space stuffing insulation between the floorboards and then screwing sheets of plywood over top. Although it was dry under there it was a miserable, miserable job. He ran out of insulation so will need another day to finish up.

He also plumbed the water boiler which we bought from a scrap yard, into the house system. As of last night we have free hot water. We have turned the on demand hot water heater off for the winter and our propane usage will be confined to the stove , BBQ and fire pit.

Propane costs

2012             $580.00 (7 months delivered)

2013             $840.00 (delivered)

2014             $570.00

2015             $760.00

2016             $590.00

2017             ?? (I can’t find my total but we installed the solar fridge in October)

2018             $200.00  (added a propane fire pit)



We are expecting high winds along with 15 mm of rain tomorrow. The two 500 gallon water tanks down at the garden are full so we can now concentrate on filling the main ones. It is cold and sunny today with calm seas so E has made a quick dash to town to pick up insulation and a few groceries. A trip made so much easier by our recent return to moorage at the closer marina

We plan to hunker down and ignore the bad weather. When E finishes the insulation project, I should think he could take a day or two off


Can be told

Although it was great to get foundations and be attached to the rock, I was pretty happy to get walls and a bathtub. I was very excited to get a roof and pretty darned pleased this week when the deck began to take shape. But you can colour me over the moon happy with my new doors.

Tom, who designed the basic concept of the renovation is a talented artist and carpenter. He agreed to make us two doors. One from the dining room to the deck and one from the guest room to the deck. He made them out of the fir beams that came out of the original roof over the kitchen. They are gorgeous. This door is off the dining room.

And this one is off the guest room. The tiling at the door in the bedroom is the same as at the front door, under the fireplace and eventually the back splash in the kitchen. We will also put a little bit in the dining room as you enter off the deck…

Craig installed both today while I worked on my stories. E contemplated how he was going to install the fan in the bathroom.

I say that I’m writing  stories, not a book so I don’t get overwhelmed. I figure if I write a bunch of stories which I might one day combine to be a book I won’t get so intimidated. My first story will go in the next issue of the Tidelines. I will add a link to the story on the home page of the blog and will tell you when I add to it..

Not sure if anyone other than me will be interested in the subject matter but one always has to start at the beginning, with the first story, before the greater story

can be told.



bit of bubbly

We are progressing and it’s all very exciting.

The foundations of the decking were complete so E was able to lay a lot of the deck boards and Craig was able to get a staircase to the dining room constructed. There was much discussion at 8 am yesterday as we tried to decide how we wanted to build the stairway… We are literally deciding on the deck design as we go. It’s very hard to imagine how to proceed until it is built stage by stage… very complicated. We are after all, on the edge of a cliff.img_5923

That being said. We have a stairway to the deck and a large area completed which is suitable for nature watching. Railings will come when the deck is complete. I moved a couple of chairs down and waited for the show to start. The sea lions soon came and didn’t disappoint. Sea lions and fish flying in the air right below me…  It’s like my own private aquarium.

At this point the exit to the deck from the dining room is covered in a sheet of plastic but the door is ready and might go in tomorrow.

E has also been splitting wood, dry walling and sanding. Our new furniture arrived by barge yesterday and is now sitting in a giant pile at the front door. We really aren’t ready for it but I wanted to get it here before the winter rains arrived. I don’t mind stepping around a few more boxes. At this point I don’t even take notice of the mess anymore..

I am knee-deep in research for some papers I want to write. It’s time-consuming but fun work… With any luck I will have an article finished in time to submit to the island newsletter.

We are beginning to feel like life is returning to new kind of normalcy. We even had time to christen the deck with our neighbours and a little

bit of bubbly





Doesn’t scare easily

I accept the fact that this is not the easiest house to build a deck around. There are multi levels of uneven ground, huge boulders to go around and deep crevasses to hang over. That being said,  all I ever wanted was a deck. When we sold Soho, we also then needed a guest room and along the way we decided to add a new living room, bathroom and kitchen. But I still want a deck.

I scared the bejesus out of Duane this summer when he suggested politely over drinks at a party that we just finish the house and put off building the deck for another year. He had never seen the scary Me as I screamed … are you kidding me?!?! that is all I wanted! or words to that effect…..deep breath.

E stained the fascia boards and that was the end of his back. Years of miserable anti-rejection drugs have taken their toll on his bone density so he suffers. Usually it’s worse after carrying propane tanks which he did this week. We have plans to build a new shed behind the outhouse and move the propane system there. E could then drive the tanks right to their hook up. With all of our new solar power we are also hoping our dependence on propane is reduced drastically.

The guys were working on the foundations and joists for the deck.. nice big strong boards sitting on cement footings will hold us tightly to the rock. The deck has a bunch of different levels needed to get around the elevation problems. The largest amount of deck real estate in the easiest build site is ready to have the deck boards laid. E is going to get to that tomorrow. It sounds like the weather is supposed to be good and its a job he is happy to do on his own if his back cooperates.

I spent the day looking for places to hang our pictures. We really have very little wall space and are very limited in what we can hang. I figure we can store most what we have until the kids are ready to take them.

The mat on my Mom’s map doesn’t really go with our paint colours but the mat , can be changed. In the meantime,  the map  is hung in a place of honour. Mom is in my dining room. All of these pictures that she loved hanging on my walls makes the new house even more special to me.

So the house is coming along,, but  great many things need just “a little” more work to be finished.. it’s all good.  More importantly though,  it looks like I’m going to get the beginnings of a deck very soon.

and our friend Duane? what happens to him.. Not to worry.. Even after my scary outburst, He is still appears to be my friend.. Apparently he

doesn’t scare easily




another muffin tin

My Grandmother, bless her heart, could not cook. One of her regular dinner features was hamburgers. She would roll plain ground beef into balls and put them in a black cast iron frying pan at around 3:30 in the afternoon. Then she would fry them for an hour and half. At five pm when my Mom walked through the door, dinner was served. The fried up wads of ground beef were placed on a dish with canned peas and mashed potatoes made from instant flakes. Hamburgers.

Grandma could however, bake. Her scones and pie crusts were to die for. I loved to bake right along side her where I was often treated to samples before anyone else. Subsequently, I don’t really enjoy cooking but I do like to bake. I’m not as good a baker as Grandma or as bad a cook, but I’m pretty unadverturesome (?) in my offerings.

The guys were working outside today. More concrete footings and joists for the deck and sheathing for the house have appeared. E was staining the rough cedar fascia until he ran out of stain. One can of stain only covered 10 of the 24 boards. I made blueberry muffins for coffee break. First time I’ve baked in the new kitchen and could only find one muffin pan.

E brought down more boxes for me to unpack.. We found two large bags of clothes. With it being October, we were delighted to open the bags and find all of my summer tank tops and sun dresses and E found his swimsuit. We also found boxes of flower vases, wine glasses and hooray hooray, the Scotch. We can’t find the clothes hangars.

I’m usually pretty organized and was shocked to discover a box I had marked vases, candlesticks etc. Really, etc??? What the hell was  I thinking, with etc.. I am not a person who accepts the existence of miscellaneous files let alone a box marked etc.. If you are going to go to the trouble to write etc.. just write what is actually in the box.  I must have been really tired that day.

Two years ago my sister-in-law (who is an awesome cook) served us french onion soup. It was delicious. She assured me that making french onion soup is really easy. Shortly thereafter, I was at the thrift store and saw some french onion soup bowls for 25 cents a piece. I grabbed four of them. I had the momentary delusion that french onion soup could be added to my limited repertoire of menu choices..

Apparently “etc. ” means french onion soup bowls because the four unused  bowls were in the box marked vases, candlesticks etc. It has been two years since I bought them. The soup bowls are unlikely ever to be used.  I should have saved the dollar or bought

another muffin tin 


would be ironic

Today, was a two steps forward kind of day.. Seems like they have been few and far between lately so we take them gratefully when we can get them.

To summarize E’s day.. The water issue is fixed.. The pressure tank and pump are working. We have lots of water down at the house and all is well with the world… Fifth time lucky,  when you are trying to solve water problems, is apparently a thing.  Part of the problem was the level or lack thereof of water in our tank.. But we have been pumping religiously lately and finally got the tank up to a level sufficiently above the outlet valve to make a difference.

Also, E turned the pressure tank dial down to 42 PSI. Forty two is where the tank seems to want to shut off.. If it won’t get to 50 PSI for shut off.. simple solution.. turn the dial down to a point where it will turn off.. Honestly, sometimes it is so simple that you just want to kick yourself for putting effort into problem solving.

Down below the house Robert and Craig made huge progress today. Robert on the foundations under the original bedroom part of the house and Craig on the foundations of the front deck. There was hammering and sawing and all kinds of good sounds coming from out front all day. Both guys seemed very pleased with the progress. Tomorrow, more concrete will be poured for more footings for the wrap around deck. This deck will be securely attached to the island and to the house. The house, which itself will be firmly attached to the bedrock.

If, once we are securely attached to the rock safe and snug, confident that heavy winds won’t blow us onto the wetter side of the water; if, when we lay in bed secure in the knowledge that we have taken the dangerous trees down and addressed most of the risks of living on the edge of a cliff…. If this is when the rock, which hangs above our bedroom window decides to fall on our bed and wipe us out. It

would be ironic

june 11 004


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nests in it

We moved here full-time in April of 2012. This will be our sixth winter here. Friends in Vancouver placed bets that we wouldn’t last three years. I am constantly asked by said friends, “don’t you miss stores?”. Nope.. I miss my kids and I miss take out Chinese but I do not miss stores, or traffic or noise or crowds or pressure or just about anything else we left behind in town… as a couple who spent most of our forties in emergency rooms and hospital beds… we especially don’t miss doctors.

We are quite content to be stocking up for winter. We wave goodbye to our neighbours as they head out on their adventures to England, Europe, California, Asia and Africa. We will enjoy hearing their stories upon their return. Sometimes, briefly, every so often we entertain thoughts of travel, but its unlikely we will be going very far, very soon. Any where we would be interested to visit is usually medically unrealistic.. Heart transplant patients are generally not encouraged to wander down the Amazon or kayak the waters of the Antarctic. Realistically, we are where we should be, and where we are happy. What more can you ask for?

E spent the day today working on the continuing water pressure issue. We should know by tomorrow if his new solution worked… I am still slowly putting things away and planning for the day when I can hang pictures..Well, in truth I spent the majority of the day looking out the window at the changing colours of the trees on the island in front of me… But I did put a few things away too..

Here is the Maple tree at the entrance to our property. There was some concern this tree would shade the garden and have to go. But its one of my favorites and it will likely live a long and happy life. Especially if the hummingbirds continue to put their

nests in it