this stuff up

You might want to sit down and pour yourself a coffee before you read this next story. It is a doozy.

I tell this story without editorial comment because I couldn’t make up this kind of stupid. We have seen a lot of careless people on the water, and lord knows most of us have stories of boaters we have had to help. But this guy was very close to squeaking in under the wire as the 2021 Darwin award winner.

On December 30th, a 28 year old guy from a nearby island, who recently arrived from Ontario and, for the sake of the story, we will call Lucky, set out for a solo trip in the waters around the sparsely occupied island next to us. The temperatures were close to zero degrees and the water was predicted to be so bad that E and I left for the city on the 29th to avoid any issues on the 30th. We drive a nice 22 ft aluminum Tom Mack with a cabin and Yamaha 150 four stroke engine. Lucky was in a blue kayak. Integral to the story, as you might have already guessed, Lucky was not wearing a life jacket.

The waters, as predicted, got rough and Lucky thought it best to find refuge in a cave next to the shore. But two days passed and the waters hadn’t improved and he was hungry so he risked heading home. As was likely to happen, Lucky flipped his blue kayak beside the booming grounds and had to swim to shore. He lost everything in the ocean. All that Lucky had were the very wet clothes on his back when he eventually found and broke into an abandoned cabin. He stripped and wrapped himself up in a bed sheet and sleeping bag before heading out in his boxers and boots to further look for help.

At 4pm on January 1st he knocked on my friends door. It was snowing, -2 and Lucky was standing in his entryway wearing boxers and boots and wrapped in a sleeping bag and bedsheet. My friend got him some warm clothes, fed him 8 granola bars, two hot dog buns with peanut butter and six bottles of water He let him sleep in the spare room. Lucky slept for thirteen hours. The next day after a breakfast of 6 bags of Quaker Oats, 2 cups of tea and 4 more granola bars, my friend took him by boat back to his island with a recommendation to refrain from any future winter kayaking trips and a suggestion to go and buy a lottery ticket.

The blue kayak is still missing. True story, I couldn’t make

this stuff up

a year off

2022 begins with yet another friggin’ dry January. Helped along by a seven day delay while we were in town, I can safely report that, so far, it is going well. However miserable life is without wine, I do try to attempt to abstain every winter. Some years there is more success than others. It is a stupid concept and I am completely against its creation.

E figured out the problem with the water in the bunkie and why the taps froze despite his efforts to wrap all of them in foam. Between the foam wrapped pipes and the access to the bathroom in the bunkie is a particle filter which the water must pass through. It was not wrapped and, when E went under the bunkie to check on things, it was apparent that the water in the filter had frozen and the bottom was blown out, probably from ice. Next year, we will have that issue resolved.

Speaking of the cold weather, let us, for the purposes of documentation, discuss just what exactly went on here on the island in December.

The highest temperature in December was on the 1st at 14.6 degrees. The lowest was -6.5 on December 27th.

The strongest sustained wind was on December 11th at 38.9 kmh from the Southwest and the strongest gusts were felt on December 27th at 58.3 kmh, also from the Southwest.

The total rain accumulation for December was 103.64 mm.

What looks like a Black Imperial pigeon has taken up residence on our deck.

It is not banded and seems lonely. Every time it strays too far from the deck, the eagles swoop by thinking he looks yummy. So he sleeps on our rafter and dines on our suet and shits on the deck. He doesn’t make any sound at all so, other than the deck poopage issue, I don’t mind him hanging around until the weather warms up. In the meantime, it is good for the dogs to learn patience as they learn to sit quietly watching him on the feeder.

All of my seeds have been ordered for the summer’s garden. Lots of new varieties to try this year, along with some favorites from last year. Every year I swear I am not going to plant more than fifteen tomato plants but I have ordered seven different varieties, so it is unlikely I will be able to stay under thirty.. Fortunately, I learned last year that the peppers grow way better in black plastic pots, so that will free up some space. I am not going to grow potatoes this year so will use the cloth bags for three different varieties of pumpkin. One I am particularly eager to try is called the Pepitas pumpkin and is grown specifically for roasting its hull-less seeds.

Vegies will be started in the house next month and moved, to the new greenhouse, in March if all goes according to plan. I am definitely looking forward to having a full season with the greenhouse to aid me.

We moved here to have things to do and problems to solve but this year we are really looking forward to a summer with no large projects demanding our time. I anticipate days and days puttering in the garden with evenings following on the deck, wine in hand. Don’t get me wrong, there is lots to do, but mostly simple jobs and maintenance issues. Next year we can deal with the studio roof. We just need

a year off

island full time

Returning home yesterday was not without some trepidation. We had been gone ten days. During that time there have been unusual amounts of snow, freezing temperatures and heavy rains. We were likely to be met with any number of system issues up to and including twenty pounds of stinking halibut in a freezer thawed because the solar panels were covered in snow. So how did it go?

Nine times out of ten when one returns to the island, after an extended absence during cold weather, the battery in the truck is dead. We brought with us a new portable battery charger purchased the day before for just such an issue. It wasn’t needed, as the truck started first try. This we considered a good omen.

Driving down the lane we expected to be met with any number of fallen trees. We had heard that the wet snow was causing issues in other areas of the province. The first tree down was a nice sized Arbutus off the cliff behind our apple trees. No harm done, great firewood and easy to access. The second was in a cluster of trees hung up on each other on the cliff near where we park our other truck. These trees are impossible for E to cut down safely and we are only too happy that Mother nature stepped in to help. Not so much by design as good luck, the tree missed the truck. The others in the group should follow soon, so the truck will be moved. Those were the only trees down on our property.

To restart the water, E closed the open drain tap under the house and then opened the main shut off valve at the deck. The water started immediately. No cracked pipes, no leaky taps.

The water in the range boiler in the house, when tested, ran freely through the kitchen taps, indicating it was not frozen and it was then safe to start the fire in the attached wood stove. It was 3 degrees outside when we got home and 3 degrees in the house. As a matter of habit, I took my coat off when I came into the house. What I was thinking, god only knows, because once the groceries had been put away I was again wearing my coat, with a scarf around most of my face and the hood over my head as I lay on the couch with a down comforter and four blankets on top of me.

Our on- demand hot water heater is inside the bathroom, safe from the outdoor elements, so it started first time with no problem.

E checked the water storage tanks this morning and seven of them are full and closed off with the water safely held for next summer’s garden. The one tank we had open while the family was here is down from 1500 gallons to 450 gallons. We lost most of that water as we had it dripping out of the bathroom tap in the bunkie during the cold weather to prevent the pipes from freezing. They all froze anyway so solving that issue has been added to E’s list of chores. We are supposed to get up to 75 mm of rain this week so the tank will refill in no time.

The halibut? The halibut was all good. The freezer was still frozen and the battery was showing 93% charged. The addition of the extra panels last year, to capture more winter sun, did their job. I cannot recommend the unique solar powered fridge high enough. It has been a great addition to our life.

The house warmed up about 3 degrees an hour. We were quite comfortable by the time we went to bed at eight. Exhausted, we slept for 12 hours and woke up to a gorgeous sunny day and a large pod of Orca wishing us a Happy New Year.

Whew, so that is the update. We are home, Covid free and ready to begin what on April 25th will be our eleventh year living off of the grid on an

island full time.

we are grateful

In 2021 we slept off the island for a grand total of four nights. Two to visit the hospital in Vancouver for E’s annual spring testing and then two nights last week to visit our family. We are all double vaxxed and boosted. I realize there is still a risk but we have taken all of the precautions we possibly can and our mental health really needed family. Some were able to visit for Christmas and those who couldn’t are the reason we left the island. It’s kind of a Mohammed moving the mountain kind of thing.

That said, risks considered, we will be very pleased/pleasantly relieved when we make it home covid free. Once home, we will be content to spend the rest of the winter snug and warm, storm watching, carrying the memory with us of a holiday season well spent. So far, we are all healthy, we just need to stay safe for a couple more days. Covid is rampant in the village where we are staying so our ability to visit friends as well as our family is nil.

One of the problems when your parents/in-laws visit in the winter is that the weather can get bad and they seemingly never leave. We were supposed to leave days ago and we are still here. If it isn’t the snow, it’s the wind. We didn’t intend to stay away from the island this long but, as always, the weather gods are in charge of our lives. 2022 begins with seven more days away from the island because, even if the roads are clear enough to get one of our dogs back from his vacation with my brother, the winds are insane on the waters and it discourages us from travelling. We are waiting for the perfect window to head back and it has taken a bit of rescheduling. Travelling in BC this winter is not without its challenges.

E has spent the last week helping our son renovate the two bathrooms in their new home. Like all renovations it has been an exercise in frustration as they tried to source supplies post flood, during a pandemic over a holiday weekend. On the up side, E loves having the time to work along side our son and I love having time with my daughter- in-law and granddaughter.

The week has been spent solving the worlds problems with my granddaughter. She was with me for my first vaccination in the spring and went with me this week for my booster shot. Honestly, if a four year old can happily wear her mask when she goes out the door and is eager to turn five so she get her shot and be safe, what the actual hell is wrong with those unvaccinated idiots…

sigh

I understand if you are disappointed that I haven’t been able to do an annual summary of our life off grid or check the water levels in our tanks or the state of affairs of the property after this week’s new year’s storm. It is difficult to write about a day in the life off grid when we aren’t there but perhaps it is enough to record our current state of mind. We love our life on the island, living there. We miss our kids but have been rejuvenated by our winter visit. They have their own lives now and are thriving without us. Life is good, COVID not withstanding, and

we are grateful.

I

be going home

At 7 am on Thursday morning, I walked one of our dogs down the path beside my house. It was -7 C, and, although it was still dark outside, my route was lit by the layer of crispy white snow on the ground. It is a path I have walked before, hundreds of times since we bought the house in 1992, but not once since we sold it in 2010.

Peeking into the yard that I had tended for eighteen years, I could see the trees the kids and I planted. They are strong and decorating the yard as I had pictured. The Magnolia Grandiflora planted in the corner was basically just a four foot stick and it is now sixty feet high. draping twenty feet wide and gracing the yard it protects. The gorgeous arbor E built in the 90’s is still a focal point of the large garden.

There is evidence of the unruly teenagers who walk the path. They were the bane of my existence one summer as they kicked holes in the fence and twice went so far as to light it on fire!!

At the end of the path I look back at the home where we raised our children, and the great memories flood my mind. I still love the colour we chose when we repainted the house from white with red trim to blue with white trim. Although a holiday, and still early in the morning, my neighbour’s lights are on. They are still our friends and come to the island often. I picture him in the kitchen making a morning coffee for her and I am tempted to knock on the door. But friggin’ Covid….

I continue my route around the corner past my Mom’s house. For most of the days we lived on this street, whenever I drove anywhere I would see her in her chair at the window reading a book. Her Yorkshire terrier curled up on her lap.

I continue the walk around the block to return with the puppy to my son’s new home. He and his wife have just bought around the corner from where he was raised and we came over for a couple of days of renovation help and a few cuddles with our granddaughter. Other than constant trips to Home Depot, for plumbing bits, and dog walks we haven’t left the house. We are content to help them get settled while staying as safe as we can. There will be time for visiting our friends again when friggin’ Covid is over, now that we have a place to stay.

It is hard not to be sad that we don’t still live in that house with that garden anymore, especially now that my grandchildren will be around the block. When we first moved to the island, I couldn’t even look at our house when we visited our old neighbours. It made me sick to see the changes they had made to my garden. Time has passed and we now have a beautiful home on the island that I love. We have been gone from this town for ten years. We now have a deck and a guest cabin, a greenhouse, wonderful new neighbours and whales!!! When we go back to the island this week, we will

be going home.

Me and E

There is unusually cold weather coming in the next few days, so E bought more foam pipe wrap for the water pipes which feed the guest cabin. The kids are coming so we need to open up the water for them. With these upcoming crazy temperatures we want to make sure we have no unfortunate water situations to screw up the current awesome water situation. All of the storage tanks are full to the brim, with only one 1500 gallon tank open for use. No one wants to see any of that water needlessly lost, least of all you guys. You would never hear the end of it.

E has connected a hose from the hot water tap on our deck to the water tank under the house. We can leave the hot water dripping into the hose and it will run from the tap to the tank during the sub zero nights and the water won’t be wasted. The guest cabin is another deal entirely. We will have to accept the loss of the little bit of water needed to keep the tap dripping in the bathroom up there at night. There shouldn’t be a big loss and the kids can keep an eye out for problems. Better that than having a pipe crack.

In the guest cabin there is an 11,000 BTU propane heater, which has been on for two days. We went up to make the beds today and it is quite comfortable.

We were doing some meal prep and Christmas baking this afternoon, when a text arrived alerting us to Orca visitors heading our way. Two adults and a baby passing by is always a welcome sight and worth putting down my spatula. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they should hang about over Christmas to entertain us all.

So this brings us to my last post for a while. I want to again thank you for reading. Thank you all for taking the time out of your lives to read about our life and supporting this blog. I hope it gives you a pleasant diversion from the day to day trials and tribulations that these last months have been. E and I both wish you all a very merry Christmas and sincerely hope you can be with at least some of your loved ones this weekend. Stay safe. Hugs from Me and E