himself with glee

The rain started pouring yesterday afternoon and the temperatures rose to seven degrees. I let the fire go out in the afternoon as the house was sitting at 24.. We didn’t put any wood on all night.

This morning when I got up, the house was still 17 and it was 7 degrees outside. A huge difference from just last week when we were getting up to 13 and -3. I used the opportunity of a cold fireplace to empty the ashes. When we moved here we didn’t empty them often enough. We have since learned that that particular chore is best done as often as possible. The fireplace then heats more efficiently.

Although it seems like we have been burning a lot of firewood, we have only used one chord of our stash so far. I imagine there are several contributing factors. One, is that most of the wood we have been burning this winter is well dried (at least three years old). Most of it has, by design been the gold standard of heat efficiency, arbutus. Another reason could be our unintended decision to not keep the fire going during the night.

We used three chords of wood last year. It was surprising and we felt we could do better this year without sacrificing our comfort. I have chosen to live off the grid. That does not mean I need to be cold. Sure, last week I wore my silk long johns 24/7, but we were quite comfortable. Well, as comfortable as you can be with no running water.

I finished the top for the quilt I started for my grand daughter. Just waiting for the backing to arrive at our city post office box, via amazon. I’m starting another today.. They are by no means works of art, I call them diet quilts. Very different from Paleo and South Beach diets, yet very effective for keeping my hands busy.

With the snow melted and the current torrential downpours of rain the island is a giant mud puddle. I love the sound of it. The ponds are swelling. The pipes are flowing. The tanks are filling and Piper is covered in mud and beside

himself with glee

it resolve itself

Fortunately, E is a patient man. Because if living on this island during the winter is anything, it is an opportunity to challenge ones patience with problem solving adventures.

This last week has had a seemingly inordinate number of problems. Not just for us but also for our few remaining neighbours. Frozen pipes were the main issue. Even the eagle was freezing.

Over heating boiler tanks another. With the colder temperatures everyone has their fireplaces burning hotter than normal. One friend’s tank is on the floor above their stove. It over flowed, causing boiling water to pour through the ceiling and down on to their stove.

When our hot water over heats, the steam is released and the hot water goes into a return pipe under the house and back to the rain catchment tank. All very good. You would think.. When the outdoor temperatures began to rise and the snow began to melt and our cold water started to flow again, we refilled our indoor boiler tank. First we let the fire burn out and the tank to cool. Then we filled cold water into the cold boiler tank. Then we re-lit the fire and the water, tanks, pipes and stove all heated up together. Nothing exploded.

E went down to check to see how much water we were actually capturing from the melting snow. Quite a bit. He turned the pump on to send it up to the water storage tanks. When he checked up top, he found that no water was making it up the hill to the tanks. The snow was not only quickly melting but by then the rains had started and the tank was going to overflow. We were going to miss out on all the forecast upcoming rain…40 mm. expected just on Wednesday alone.

He disconnected the pump from the up hill pipes and ran it separately. It was working. If we had somehow wrecked it through this cold snap it would cost $600.00 to replace. He thought he should check all of the lines from top to bottom to see if there was an obvious leak anywhere. There was no leak from the water tank up to the storage tanks.

But remember when I was telling you about the indoor boiler tank sounding like it was going to explode last week and E scoffed? E found that the hot water which over flowed from the indoor tank through the return pipe to the rain catchment tank was so hot that time, it had melted the pvc pipe!!!!!

It meant that if he hadn’t discovered it, we wouldn’t have been successfully saving any over flow from the boiler tank. So no real harm done, but we are going to have to find something stronger, less melty for that return pipe.

Back to the problem at hand with the pump from the catchment tank. E had been running up and down the hill, under and around the house, in the freezing cold, since day light. He was out of ideas. Hoping that it was nothing a good long nap couldn’t solve, he lay down.

Sure enough by the time he woke from his nap it had been pouring rain for an hour, the temperatures were up to 6 degrees and any possible water still frozen in the up hill pipes had finally melted. The pump came on, the water went up the hill. 500 gallons saved in storage with the catchment tank empty and ready for the next wet weather system….

We have cold water coming into the house. We have hot water in the boiler tank. We have rain water catching in the holding tank and when the holding tank is full the rain water is successfully going back up the hill to storage. Our water systems, I hesitate to say, for the moment at least, are working.

Usually it takes an ability to problem solve to live here. Especially in the winter, you need to think outside the box, be creative with your solutions. But sometimes you just need the willingness to ignore the problem for a while, take a nap and let

it resolve itself

it is daylight

It is official. E has come to the dark side. He is now getting up at 4:30/5 am with me. He has had his coffee, read the sports scores,and eaten his breakfast and it’s only 6 am… Two more hours until it is daylight when he will take the dog for a walk.. I have a few ideas for what he could do with all of that free time?

We have had crazy winds this week. It hit gusts of 67 kmh at one point the other night. The same speeds are expected for tonight. The snow started at 2 am this morning and it is still coming down.. Very pretty on the trees.

E was up at 2 am to stoke the fire and wash his hands. The water in the house was running fine then but when we got up at 5 am the pipes were frozen. We have lots of water in jugs for this situation. They are currently in front of the fire to thaw, as is the hose and the humming bird feeder.

We have this boiler tank (read: bomb) in the living room. If it over heats, which it does when we are keeping the fire really hot, it will normally overflow into a pipe which goes to our rainwater collection system. Cold water flows into the tank to take its place. The cold water is frozen… so the tank can’t refill and will explode ..(says me, E scoffs)

The garden hose is in the house to thaw so that we can empty the boiler tank into our rain water catchment system (so it isn’t wasted) and we can turn the tank off and keep it empty til the temperatures warm up and the pipes thaw.

Living a bomb free life is one of the primary goals we had when we moved here.

We turned on the back deck light to watch the pretty snow fall in the dark of winter and we immediately had a group of birds hanging around the light at the door for warmth. I will keep that light on and the back porch one also for the little guys.. I am all about helping them stay warm outside but am tired of them feeling they can come inside whenever they want.

Although E has given up staying in bed til the respectable hour of 7AM, Piper has not. He refuses to get up until

it is daylight

make you cry

Over Christmas we visited with a lot of friends who told me they read this blog. They mentioned I sometimes make them laugh but have occasionally made them cry. Goodness, let’s hope this year there aren’t too many days when sad things happen. I fear today is one where I am more likely to bore you to death with housekeeping matters.

It is still dark so I can’t be sure what is happening outside my window but although we live fifteen feet above the water it sounds like the waves are hitting the rocks right next to me. We are expecting a King Tide today, which is a higher than normal tide that occurs during a full moon when the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon are in alignment.

In a half hour it will be a tide of 12.46 feet at the cut. In addition, we have had gusts as high 40 kph over night. The weather channels say it is coming from the southeast, but it is supposed to turn during the day and come right at us.

The combination of a King Tide along with high winds makes for a nasty mess on the water. All of the logs which you would normally see resting on our local beaches are lifted off the ground to float out on to the nearby waters. They can wreak havoc on our propellers and can make for a stressful trip to town.

The temperatures were predicted to drop way below zero but we haven’t seen that yet. When I got up this morning it was still five degrees outside. Typically, we are four degrees warmer than the temperatures measured at the harbour across from us.

We have had a lot of rain this week which has prompted us to be proactive up at the water tanks. We are doing a lot of opening and closing of tanks managing the reserves. We remain suspicious that there may be a leak in the pipes somewhere. So the thinking is, that by closing individual tanks once they accumulate a few hundred gallons, we won’t lose it all if there is a leak somewhere. Once they all have say, five hundred gallons and are closed and safe we will open them one at a time again til they are all full. I know it sounds like it should be easier but that is what we seem to have to do to make sure we don’t miss out on these rains. If we don’t catch these January, February rains, will we have another chance?’

E has been laying the flooring in the bunkie. The bathroom, two bedrooms and fussy bits around the doors are done. Just the common room left to do. Then, comes the installation of the propane heater.

If we have some sunny days next week, I am hoping to get the fruit trees pruned. We often have a few brisk but sunny days during January and I will be ready with the pruners if it happens. Last year we pruned on January 15th and had a tremendous harvest. It could have been a combination of weather, pollination, and pruning but it seems prudent to repeat what I can of last year’s schedule.

This seems like a pretty boring blog post talking about weather and such. But look on the bright side, I didn’t

make you cry

the list yet

Our dithering is over about the bunkie heating solution. I don’t know what we had been thinking when we considered taking apart the new wall and redoing the roof line to build an alcove for an air tight stove. Honestly, what was in that eggnog?

We ordered a Martin 11,000 btu propane heater. It direct vents through the wall. It can easily heat the 320 square foot cabin. The feature I like the most is the automatic shut off valve. Propane won’t be wasted if it is accidentally left on. I’m not sure how often the bunkie will be used during the colder months. This heater should be just fine. It will be here, ready for installation next week.

E began laying the flooring in the cabin today. He has to do all the fussy cuts around the doors first. It was frustrating work. He was not a happy camper. It shouldn’t take too long though, once he starts on the common room. Theoretically, there will be floors and heat by the time our guests arrive for family day weekend in February.

When I was at the fabric store last month I was waiting in line chatting with the woman beside me. She said to me “I swore I would not buy any more material until I used up all of the fabric in my cupboard” I looked down at the pile of fat quarters, and bolts of cloth in front of her waiting to be purchased and asked “How is that working for you” We laughed and laughed…

I started a little baby quilt today. My friend gave me some cotton material which I thought I could use up quickly. I’m hoping E won’t complain that my fabric stash is taking over the guest bedroom if it looks like I’m making some small progress.

I have four seed catalogues on my coffee table. I am not planting too many vegetables this year but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming. Packages of tomato and pumpkin seeds have already arrived. Not really sure how I will get my seeds started mid March. I won’t be here and it is unlikely there will be a greenhouse by then.

Just between you and me, I suggested to E that we stick with a simpler plan for heating the bunkie claiming it would be much less work for him. But if we are going to be completely honest, I just figured if we redid that wall for an airtight stove, I would never get a greenhouse. As it is, a greenhouse is unlikely to be built in time for this years seed starts. Maybe we will have a very productive April, but it isn’t at the top of

the list yet.

.

moment of 2020

I have recovered sufficiently from the island New Year’s party to write to you. We had way too much fun and to be perfectly honest with you, I did not get up at five am the following morning. If I had, I would have only had three hours sleep. Three hours sleep at my advanced age takes easily twenty nine hours of recovery. With my 2019 New Years resolution to get up at five am forgotten for the moment, we got up at 8 today. Fully refreshed and ready to take on the world.

This year’s party was organized by one of our own, who had lots of new, great ideas. Local talent were invited to play a couple of sets after dinner. One of our younger neighbours sang three of his original songs. Then a member of one of our more long term families sang four songs. The highlight of which was a parody of Hotel California which he and his wife had written. Honest to Pete, hilarious.

Then, two of our newer residents hosted a music bingo game. So much fun. We were handed bingo cards and dobbers. They would play a song and if you had the song title on your card, you got to dob it. The greatest part of the game was singing along to the music when you had figured out what song it was. I’m not sure if it is a common occurrance when the game is played or the fact that we were well into our refreshments but for a group of people who by and large are a pretty smart crowd, there was much confusion as to what constitutes a cross pattern on a bingo card, to win the game.

Dancing didn’t start until close to eleven,when E played his role as DJ. The hall filled close to midnight for the countdown on the giant screen. Our numbers swelled from forty to perhaps fifty. Once the traditional Auld Lang Syne was complete, we returned to the dance floor.

E and I got home at two in the morning.

This is going to be a big year for us. Our son is getting married and E will celebrate twenty years with his new heart. We haven’t traveled anywhere interesting for a very long time and are looking forward to a big trip in March.

We have much to be grateful for and much to look forward to. With respect to the tradition of a New Years resolution, I hereby resolve to enjoy every single

moment of 2020

E, the beaver and me

Everything we want to remember about 2019 could be a pretty boring blog post, but the information needs to be humbly recorded for the future benefit of mankind.

Water

With a capacity of 8500 gallons we never got past 6000 stored in the tanks. If the day should ever arise when we collect more than 8500, we will add more tanks. There is no such thing as too much water in storage. We end theyear with 1600 gallons stored which is water we caught in December. We were out completely at the end of November.

Our rain water catchment system is fully functioning with a successful water filtration system. We can now drink both the water from our well and that which comes off our metal roof.

The water boiler attached to the wood stove is working great and we are able to turn off the propane on demand system when there is a fire burning.

The Garden

The pumpkins were great this year. The tomatoes were only so-so. The flowers, pond and fish were fabulous. Unless we start getting more water saved, the garden will continue to frustrate me. I have committed to growing more flowers and fewer vegetables. I planted 400 daffodil/hyacinth bulbs and if the squirrels don’t get them all, it should be very pretty around here next spring.

After the drastic pruning measures taken last January, the roses were the prettiest they have ever been, the plum crop was abundant and there were more apples than we could manage.

Health

We had a great year health wise. No kidney stones for either of us. No migraines and no arthritis flair ups. Fewer heart transplants, shoulder replacements or metal plates installed than previous years. I suspect the dieting helped, with a combined sixty pounds less of us. Healthy eating…. Who knew?

Guests

We had 76 guest nights this year. Most of those guests paid in full with their labour working on the bunkie. Our granddaughter was here ten nights and honestly, she really doesn’t keep up her fair share of the work load. She has other redeeming qualities.

Travel

I was off island for sixteen nights. Five for our trip to the States and the rest for our recent Christmas trip. E was off island two more nights than me while he went for his checkup at the Transplant clinic.

Construction

Our brother in law milled fir so E could finish the window sills in the bedrooms and bathroom of the main house. The siding is also now complete and stained.

After Easter with the kids it occurred to us that perhaps it was time to entertain building a bunkie for our growing family. With much dithering we decided to go ahead with the project. The cabin still needs the flooring, back porch and front deck rails installed. The siding is almost finished but needs some staining.

We can not decide on how we are going to heat it. Originally, we were going to put a propane heater against the wall. We have changed our minds. (We change our minds a lot and that is part of the reason nothing ever gets finished here)

The current top contender is to add an alcove to the existing bunkie structure with room for a wood stove. This will require going backwards. We will have to cut a hole out of E’s beautiful wall. We have scheduled making a final decision for next week.

Population

With Sami’s death in February, we are down to one dog and will stay with just the one. We have a family wedding this year and another child now co-habitating so our numbers are growing. The bunkie really couldn’t wait any longer.

Wildlife

Quite a few visits from the whales this spring. Not many since the summer. No herring spawn nearby this year. One of our resident deer died but we have two still hanging around daily.

Quilting

I helped with the island raffle quilt. Made a smaller lap quilt for me, two Christmas tree skirts for my kids, a bookcase quilt for my niece, a variety of tote bags for gifts and a casserole caddy which I am not proud of.

In summary,

It has been a great year and would like to finish it by wishing you all the very best for 2020. I really do appreciate the time you take to spend with me. 66,000 times you have read what I have to say and that is incredibly kind. I will try to make you laugh more this year with very little crying.

Like our fish, we are thriving as we live this life. I am fully aware it isn’t for everyone. But it is the one for

E, the beaver and Me