trip to town

I have a video from the nature channel for you today, but first, an update on our life here in the winter months.

The weather continues to give us a chance to work outside for an hour or two every day. We pace ourselves by watching an inordinate amount of World Cup soccer between jobs.

E bucked up the wood from the tree he felled and I raked and burned up the branches to clear the site. We then carried the wood to the shed waiting to be split.

After upgrading his systems, a neighbour gave us eight, five year old trojan batteries (usual life span is ten years) and a really nice fridge which runs on propane or ac. We have an old inverter and charge controller from our original house so the thinking is perhaps a separate system in the workshop could support E’s power tools, and there is always a need for an extra fridge when summer company comes. The batteries each weigh 62 pounds and the fridge, well a fridge is heavy. We loaded them into the truck, out of the truck and into the studio. Then, we took some Tylenol and watched a soccer game.

With the temperatures dropping, the bunkie needed to be winterized. E drained the water and added antifreeze down the pipes. He also removed the on demand hot water tank and put it inside for safe keeping. When the family comes at Christmas, it won’t be any work at all to get the water system back up and running.

Family is coming for Christmas so we thought it would be fun to string lights around the property. They are LED, use very little power and are kinda pretty, especially in the snow. So there are lights now around the house and bunkie, the greenhouse and down the driveway. I hope the tugboat crews enjoy them.

The sun doesn’t reach the main deck side of the house at this time of year so there is no point in a solar water heating system for the hot tub. E took it apart and stored it under the house for safe keeping.

After a suggestion from E’s bridge partner, E made a heat exchanger, out of spare copper bits, which he is going to install under the house to allow us to heat the hot tub with water from our range boiler. We are just waiting on a pump to arrive from Amazon and it should be up and running before the family arrives.

E carried two 72 pound propane tanks down and installed them under the house after we brought a ton of firewood down to the front door. No one wants to be wheelbarrowing wood down a snow covered driveway. We learned our lesson last Christmas to get everything we can down to the house on days when the driveway is bare. Then we took more Tylenol and watched more soccer.

Our new neighbours came to winterize their house and she was able to finally see a whale. There were three or four swimming past on a cold sunny afternoon last week.

I have been quilting again. I started to make the grandkiddies Christmas stockings. I just need to attach the cuffs today and they will be done. Really cute and sewing them is not as hard on my wrists as carrying wood.

Between the recent snow storms and wind storms and world cup soccer we hadn’t been to town for three weeks. I had a very long list of groceries ordered, from three different stores, to be delivered to our car. There were ten packages from Amazon for pick up at the Post Office and the weather looked to be perfect yesterday. So off we went for what was a very productive day restocking and preparing for Christmas. Again, the driveway was bare so we brought down five wheelbarrows of supplies and restocked the house in what were perfect conditions.

On our way home we found ourselves in the middle of a sea lion celebration of some sort. E cut the engine and they brought the party to us. I have about 15 minutes worth of video but here is a two minute portion of what was a very unusual finish to our

trip to town.

Shade for us

If you look closely, this tree has no business being alive, let alone living above our house. Growing through a rock, it has long made me nervous. It was chosen as the next tree to be murdered and today was the day.

E sharpened his chainsaw blade while I moved the chairs and swing-set out of the way. With the dogs tucked safely in the truck, work began at 9 am.

The tree was about 76 feet tall and leaning awkwardly. I asked what the worst case scenario could be and was assured he would be safe and no solar panels or buildings would be in danger and that was good enough for me.

Unfortunately the falling tree did take the top off of my flowering cherry but I am hoping it can be saved. Other than that, it came down nicely and without issue. It couldn’t have landed any closer to the burn pile than it did, so clean up for me was a lot easier than it sometimes has been.

Garry Oak trees are considered rare but we are fortunate to have quite a few on this property and I do love them. With this fir gone, the path is clear for the Garry Oak beside it to now thrive and grow to its huge potential. It will provide the squirrels and blue jays with acorns and years of welcome

shade for us

preferred dappled sun

November 18, and we are still eating sandwiches for lunch every day, made with fresh tomatoes from our garden. The last of the green tomatoes were harvested from the greenhouse on November 6th and now I ripen what is needed by putting them in a basket with an apple. I cannot tell you how pleased I am with the addition of the greenhouse to our life here. Fresh tomatoes and it’s the end of November!

We have had amazing weather for the last couple of weeks. Little wind and sunny skies with a reasonable chill in the air. Parades of sea lions are going past the house every day and, when paired with calm waters, they are easy to see and provided great entertainment for our granddaughter when she, her Dad and wee brother visited for five days last week.

Sunny skies and mild weather were the perfect conditions for working outside, so, while our son was visiting, like his brother in September, he helped E murder trees. The grand kiddies and I manned the burn pile to clean up the debris. While I added branches to the fire, my granddaughter was in charge of the S’more supplies.

Now they are gone but E and I must continue the firewood project. We have been splitting and stacking the wood all week. We have a long way to go to get the sheds full for the coming years but we have made some progress thanks to the welcome help of our kids.

There continues to be work in the garden to complete before the winter rains eventually arrive. E took down the plum tree, which has only provided ten plums in the last two years. I warned the tree two years ago that it needed to earn its spot in the prime fenced real estate and, still, it did not produce. So it is gone and I have begun to move new residents into what I will now call the plum garden. A rhodo from Lynne and the Camelia E gave me for my birthday which has never been happy since I moved it from the deck. Hopefully it will like this new home..

It already has its

preferred dappled sun….

that went missing

Thank you for all the cards and letters (four) asking me how we made out with our water over the summer and how it is going, now that the rains have arrived. It is obviously time for the inevitable water update blog post.

In the simplest words I can summon, we ran out of water. Normally, by the end of September we would have received a bit of rain water to live on, but we were out. On September 23rd we had to borrow some from our neighbours. E hooked up a hose from their tank to ours and with the help of an electric pump, we “borrowed” 600 gallons. Surely, we thought, that will be enough to tide us over. But noooooooo. The rains still never came and our kids were coming for Thanksgiving so we borrowed another 400 gallons to make extra super sure we had enough for their comfort. (showers, laundry etc.) Those 1000 gallons gave us all the water we needed to live like kings, until this week when the rains did, finally. arrive.

When the 250 gallon threshold of rain water is reached in the 500 gallon tank underneath our deck a pump is triggered to push the water up the hill to our storage tanks. When that pump is triggered, a light comes on. Since October 24th that light has come on seven times. Each time, as you can imagine, there is much excitement.

We are nowhere near full tanks yet, but we are well on our way..

Here is a wee table to show you where we have been at this point in recent years. Keep in mind that through all these years we were critically low on water at the end of August.

DateWater in Storage
Nov. 1, 20182500 gallons
Nov. 1, 20191300 gallons
Nov. 1, 20207200 gallons
Nov. 1, 20216200 gallons
Nov. 1, 20221300 gallons

Our neighbours had water to share with us this year but will unlikely have any extra in the future. E has always maintained the position that we have enough storage capacity. He felt 8000 gallons of water should be plenty for our garden and daily life during the usual dry months on the island. The drier summer weeks have, until this year, been interspersed with rains to augment our supply. Do I need to mention that the annual August Vancouver fair which has historically been troubled with too many rainy days. But those regular summer rains could very likely be a thing of the past.

I admit we were reckless with our water this summer. We watered in the garden willy-nilly. We power washed the deck before staining it. We changed the water in the hot tub after our granddaughter had been here. I think next summer we will be extra vigilant and if we again have issues with water storage in September, there will be no problem convincing E we need more storage.

On a separate and completely unrelated topic let me tell you about our latest mail problem. There is no mail delivery on this island, We live at an address which doesn’t even have a postal code. Our mail goes to a post office box in town. We do a lot of on-line shopping with most of our supplies arriving through Amazon. Throughout Covid we have never had a problem. Everything we have ordered over the years arrived as expected and, if it was different from what we ordered, it was easily refunded or replaced.

Last week when we went to the post office in town, we were expecting shipments of, among other things, wine and mason bee supplies. The wine fortunately arrived as expected but the box of mason bee supplies went missing. Although it was noted at Amazon and at the Post Office that the package was delivered, we never got it. The post office manager tracked it and discovered that it did go to the Nanaimo post office but was then redirected (why and by whom?) to Lasquiti Island. Lasquiti!!! Sure, it is an island, but it is very definitely not our island. The post office told us to advise Amazon that the package is lost. Thank goodness it wasn’t the wine

that went missing

an adequate consolation

Although there aren’t many, there are some less than perfect sides to our life on an island off the grid. We experienced two of them on Thursday.

Sometimes the weather and limited daylight hours can prove challenging with winter scheduling. We had booked the dog groomer on the same day as our flu shots and both appointments were coordinated with our current wine bottling requirements. All of which were to take place in town last Thursday, carefully timed with grocery orders for optimum efficiency. The days of endless good weather could have lasted until the end of the month, but they didn’t.

When we got up, we saw that it was brutal out on the water. I would have been very happy to postpone the trip but honestly, to rebook everything would have been a pain in the a$$ and well, we all have life jackets.

Off we went. The crossing was one of the less pleasant trips we have had since living here. But the dogs were champs and were quick to forgive us once they had returned to their beds by the fire. It was a long day.

A long day made worse with the discovery of a dead deer on the lane by our house. No visible signs of trauma or reason for his death, but he has been coming to my garden for as long as I can remember, so I have chosen to think of him as dying peacefully in his old age. E and I carried him deeper into the woods to complete his cycle and feed the other wildlife. All very sad but such is the reality of life on the nature channel.

I was glad to see the end of Thursday but did feel a certain sense of satisfaction when we got home, after having accomplished so much. Nine hours after we left, we returned just before dark, soaked to the skin, with forty additional bottles of wine for the pantry as

an adequate consolation.

want to watch

As the cooler weather arrives we grow less and less inclined to take on any major new projects. Ongoing maintenance and repairs will likely make up the majority of our time for the next couple of years. Certainly, there is nothing this winter on our chore list other than increasing the supply in our wood sheds.

That said, every day, until the rains arrive, we have tried to accomplish something, no matter how small. There is always something for me to do in the garden whether it is, like today, spreading poppy seeds and picking a fresh bouquet, or yesterday, winterizing begonias.

For E, he built a box for the garbage bin ’cause the raccoons have been a menace lately. What a raccoon can do to a garbage bin is nothing compared to what two cocker spaniels can do with the garbage that the raccoons have spilled.

The afternoon today was gorgeous blue skies and relatively calm seas. The rains we were promised were nowhere to be seen until dinner time. Then they arrived.

I rehung the hummingbird feeders for the winter at our door. I didn’t feed them all summer when there was so much food for them in the garden. The feeder wasn’t up a day before two hummers returned. Looks like they are going to be with us for the winter again.

During the hot summer months we normally leave water out for the wildlife, with one of our trail cameras trained on the bowl. During the day/evening we have rabbits, raccoons, crows, deer and cats regularly drinking from the bowl on camera. Every morning E would go up and the bowl would be empty so we added a big bin full of water next to it for them. I put a few rocks into it so thirsty mice wouldn’t drown if they tried for a sip.

I have decided that it isn’t enough to check the trail cams after the fact to see the animals so we are installing a live camera this week. When there is an animal detected we will get a notice on our phones and be able to watch them live. I am really looking forward to watching what is going on around the property, live. Years ago, there was evidence in the driveway dust of two deer having a fight. It’s not that I want the wildlife fighting but if there is going to be fisticuffs between deer, I

want to watch.