Off The Grid

Living off the Grid on a west coast island


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Here this weekend

First day of school for our five year old boy. It was 1991. We had registered him for all the requisite after school activities. Soccer, swimming and Beavers (pre Cubs). Three year old and new born were at home.. their turn would come.

Saturday morning at swimming lessons. A pool of five year old boys trying to float, bums in the air, with their parents sitting in the lounge watching. One of the other boys in the class was in the same French immersion class at school as our son. We meet the parents. chat, chat, chat. They introduce us to their cousin and his wife, they also have a boy of the same age in the swim class although their boy goes to a different local school. The three couples are surrounded by our combined nine children in various stages of undress for lessons. Two waiting for dad and tot classes. Two were still being nursed. I remember the cousin always had a big Tupperware filled with grilled cheese sandwiches for everyone.

Sunday, soccer on the field behind our school. Our sons team included several of the boys from his class. They raced happily around in the rain and mud. Arms waving in the air like windmills. Parents surround the field yelling encouragement as we drank E’s spiked hot chocolate in the cold.

Monday night, Beavers. Twenty men and their sons arrive in the gym at the local school. E stands beside his swimming buddies. We are new to the town and don’t know anyone else. The district commissioner welcomes them. “So pleased you all appreciate the value of the scouting program for your sons.. ” she says “small problem, we have no leaders for this Beaver group. So if some of you would like to step up, we will train you and your sons will have a great scouting experience. ” E and his two swimming buddies didn’t so much step up as sixteen other men stepped back.

The following Monday a meeting was planned by E and his new Beaver leader buddies at the local McDonalds to discuss what the hell just happened and finalize plans for their new Beaver pack. Were they aware that E had had a vasectomy that day and was sitting with a bag of frozen peas in his pants? I doubt it.

These two couples, long time residents, and their families were integral to the years of happiness and support we had living in that town.

The first visitor E had in the CCU the morning he got sick was the cousin. The other family occupied our eldest during E’s heart transplant. Dear dear friends and we are only too excited to be hosting them

here this weekend


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And enjoy ourselves

Renovations tend to evolve.

We weren’t going to replace the original windows of the house, just add the new ones in the addition.

But then we redesigned the kitchen and had to change the window above the sink and then of the course the newly situated bathroom needed a window…

The window in the guest room was made smaller to accommodate a closet but we were able to use two thirds of the original window. We thought… but as we looked at it and sighed over it’s sad filthy condition we hesitated to finalize the exterior wall and replace the shakes around the window cause.. well it looked like shit…

So three weeks ago we gave in and ordered a new window. It arrived Wednesday and E was able to pick it up when he went to town for the generator part. Do you remember last winter when we waited four months for windows? Anyhoo…

Today’s job d’jour for E was to install the new window. It was one of those jobs which went smoothly and only took a couple of hours. The rains started just as he finished.

Our mutual commitment to one job off the list a day, is proceeding well.. the best jobs, like todays, are the ones which go well and we are finished by noon. There are a lot of ugly jobs on the list but at this point we are choosing to ignore them

and enjoy ourselves


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Your hands dirty

E got the 7 kilowatt Kubota generator working again. It was a dirty job. For the first time since February 2017 we have sunshine, walls, power, water and a roof all functioning at the same time!…… how great is that?

It’s amazing how one adapts to this life.. If willing. You just have to look past the unfinished or broken bits. If you want to visit us and notice the unfinished parts of the house you will exhaust yourself.. We encourage guests instead to imagine how far we have come and expect everything else will get finished one day…

The sun is shining and I am a laundry machine. I am washing six months worth of clothes, sheets, blankets and towels. I had done the last of all the dark loads yesterday. I went to empty the machine this morning and found a load E had done last night when I was out. An entire machine load of jeans, I hadn’t seen them as he had been stashing them somewhere. I don’t want to know….. they were filthy!

The trick to living here is ignoring dirt and a willingness to get

your hands dirty


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Of the law

There was an election issue relevant to our island last year and a local politician was available for questions on a radio talk show. Islanders could call in…

Woman answering phones at the talk show: Hello caller, welcome to the program. Before I take your question. What’s your postal code?

Islander: I don’t have one.

Woman: We are only taking questions from property owning islanders.

Islander: Right, I own my island property.

Woman: Excellent, then what is the postal code?

Islander: I don’t have one I live on an island.

Woman: But you must have a postal code.

Islander: Nope.

Woman: Well I am sorry but we can’t take your question about this matter that affects your island unless you have a postal code. Thank you… click

First question asked by new residents. What is our postal code? Simple answer is we do not have one. No postal service, no postal code. The only postal code we have is the one attached to our post office box. Each permanent resident gets a free post office box at the postal station of their choosing but no postal code.

As explained to me in drivers ed, the reason the address must be correct on a drivers license is for notification of kin in case of an accident. The officer takes the license.. As a side note that is why organ donation stickers on licenses didn’t work because the license inevitably wasn’t with the patient.

The address on my license is pure nonsense. After a great length of time at the DMV it was the only format the computer would accept. But if we are ever in an accident the police will be looking a very long time for a non existent street near my postal station.

The police can take it up with the computer.

Normally, I could care less that I have no postal code or service. But we are waiting for a part to arrive for the generator and the only way to know if it’s there is a trip by boat to town. It was supposed to be mailed from Richmond last Tuesday and it wasn’t at the post office today. E will try again on Wednesday. Fortunately we had bright sunshine all day so the batteries got a charge and I was able to get some laundry done.

When inconvenienced by no postal service I am reminded of what the late great Butch Cassidy probably never said. Having no postal code helps us stay one step ahead

of the law


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Its always something

We were able to harvest the last of our apples before the rains arrived.

So much rain. Glorious rain. I know I said that I wouldn’t talk about our water again for a while. I lied.

We have accumulated now 1700 gallons of water. 400 from last night alone. I lay in bed listening to the sound of it on my roof last night with visions of bubble baths dancing in my head.

Since the reno began I haven’t really had a chance to clean the house. Between the remnants of drywall dust and ash from the summer wildfires the place is filthy. One of our granddaughter’s favorite pastimes this week was drawing in the dust on the shelves. Next week, with all of my new water supply I am hoping to rectify the situation and give the place a good wash.

Hoping. Because right now we have very little power.

E took apart our generator last week to repair a water issue we had ignored for a year. He ordered a new water pump and when it arrived it seems we needed one more part to install it. It should arrive tomorrow.

We are getting just enough solar power to run the fridge but that is all.

All summer I have had more power than I knew what to do with and not a drop of water. Now that I have water, the power is limited….

Sigh

Its always something


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Circle of life

Alice and John had three children. Each of the three had four of their own. From those twelve grandchildren came nineteen great grandchildren. Now it gets hard… The nineteen-great grandchildren have now had thirteen great great grandchildren.. whew .. don’t worry there won’t be a test.. but I do have a point..

Sunday, we went to the celebration of life for the last of Alice’s children. He was ninety-six. Defying all odds, he outlived his brother (E’s Dad) and sister through sheer stubbornness. His life achievements filled a full page (single spaced). He was a father, a psychiatrist, a MLA, the Chancellor of SFU, Chairman of the board of the Maritime museum, a musician, an ardent defender of social justice and an instigating force to bring Medicare to British Columbia in the sixties. The celebration was an excellent testament to his life’s work.

When E first became ill in July of 1999, our children were on the island for their usual summer vacation with E’s Dad, their Papa. I phoned him to explain that E had suddenly become gravely ill and that he might need a heart transplant. As you can imagine Papa thought I had lost my mind and had his doubts to my news.

I was sitting outside the ICU at VGH when I made the call to Papa. It wasn’t an hour later, sitting beside E’s bed when his uncle came storming in the room demanding to see the chart. He was a psychiatrist not a cardiologist but that didn’t stop him. He sat with us the rest of the evening, comforting me, assuring me that we would get through this. That the family would get us through this… I imagine he phoned Papa when he left and explained I wasn’t nuts….. not as far as E’s diagnosis went at least. I did in fact need a lot of anti depressants to get through the next years.. but I wasn’t nuts…

Saturday, the day before the Celebration of life, we went to the first birthday party of our granddaughter. She is the thirteenth and newest great great grandchild of Alice and John. We brought her back to the island with us while her parents are so busy, just as Papa would bring our kids here to help us…

When Alice, the Matriarch of this family was in the hospital months before her death at age 92, we brought our first child to her room and placed the six pound boy in front of her. She stared for several minutes. Rarely found speechless she smiled and spoke gently to him

“And so it should be” she said “the

circle of life”


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All have one

I know you are tired of listening to me talk about water but I promise this is the last time for a while.

That sound you are hearing is rain. September seventh and the drought is over. We made it.. Four months with no discernible rain fall and very limited water from our well. A lot of plants died, we grew very few vegetables and our personal hygiene left a lot to be desired but we eaked out a fairly comfortable summer and lived to plant another garden next year.

E went up to the tanks to measure our stores this morning. There are 400 gallons in the storage tank holding the water pumped from the well. So, after what we used we had a net gain of 400 gallons.

The tank holding the water from the rain catchment off our roof is at 375 gallons. That water has been caught off our roof since the June first installation and pumped up to the top of the hill. Summer of drought and we begin the rainy season with 775 gallons in storage.. It’s raining now with more expected next week. I’m confident the worst is behind us.

I won’t mention water again (I hope) until I proudly announce that the tanks (8500 gallons) are full.

There was another barge delivery to the island today so we grabbed the chance to send more garbage off of the island.. Honestly, where does it all come from? Surely that must be it.

The house is all clean and we are ready for the return of our grand daughter next week. We are on babysitting detail again.. woo hoo… Fire season should be winding down now and this should be our sons last deployment so we are grateful for the chance to help out with the chaos that is Mommy’s coming week.

We will even be able to give the baby a bath.. Hell, we can

all have one


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Something to do

Two years ago (fall of 2016) we moved into Soho (the family property) for the winter while we rented out this house to a work crew renovating a house here on the island.

We froze at SoHo.. That house needs some major work on its heating set up. My slippers would be wet in the morning beside our bed from the damp and cold…brrrr. We lived out of the garbage-bags we had thrown our belongings into thinking it was going to be two months,.. it was four..

Then we sold our share in SoHo and began the renovation here in February of 2017. It was going to take six weeks… But as renovations go, one thing leads to another. You find yourself deciding to redesign the whole kitchen cause the old one doesn’t fit anymore and rebuilding the entire deck cause you can’t have half a new deck and half an old deck. Your well loses it’s strength so you add a rain water catchment system. The window order gets screwed up and you waste three months waiting for its arrival. Taking the roof off and turning it around before putting the new one on proves challenging. Before we knew it, two years flew by and we are still renovating the house.

We aren’t alone. There are others on this and neighbouring islands who have been at it longer than us. Some of us, I suspect, never expect to finish the house and just enjoy the journey…

Last winter, we didn’t have windows until the middle of December or insulation under the floor. I don’t remember being as cold as we were at SoHo the year before (which tells you how bad the heating is there) but it couldn’t have been as cozy as we like. I don’t really remember.. it’s a blur…..

As the saying kind of goes. Fall is upon us with winter soon to follow. Our house now has windows, walls, doors and a roof. We have every expectation that although the house reno is not complete and we will have plenty of jobs to keep us busy this winter we will be warm and cozy with plenty of time to enjoy the new house between chores.

E and I figure if we each do one job a day, that’s sixty a month… with a three page to do list, I’m fairly certain we won’t run out of chores. But if we do ..and the house gets finished….I’m sure we will find

something to do


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Tonight looks fake

E has been up at the top of the property installing the new water tanks. There is plenty of room up there but the ground needed to be levelled with a pick axe and raked before the tanks could be installed. There are five tanks up there now. It looks like a tank forest. We changed our wood stove last winter to a stove which has a coil in it. Water will be plumbed to run through the coil to be stored in an adjoining bronze water tank. This eliminates the need for the on demand hot water system in the winter when the stove is lit and will save us a ton of propane.

We had the stove installed last winter but still hadn’t found a bronze tank. Our friend was able to find an old one for us at a scrapyard on the island. For all appearances it looks like a regular water tank. But stripped down, it reveals an old bronze tank. E checked the serial number and the tank was was made in 1950.. The bronze is in excellent shape but we will still run a pressure test before we install it. We will polish it and install it in the living room next to the fireplace before the winter gets going… Honest, it will look good and even better, be of purpose.

I have been canning up a storm. There was so much fruit on our trees, we were left with no choice. It’s a great problem to have.

Yesterday, I made 8 pints of chutney and five half pints of pear jam. The chutney is time consuming because there is a lot of pealing and chopping. It’s a gorgeous recipe with plums, pears apples, raisins, cranberries, raisins, apricots and dates…

I liked the jam so much I made six more jars today. It has a nice spicey flavour with a hint of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.. Tomorrow I am going to can the last ten pounds of pears in quarters for winter desserts.

The sky

tonight looks fake


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Wears many hats

Every day on this property challenges a variety of skills.

The temperature has dropped to 21 degrees with sunny skies, no wind.

Perfect conditions for getting things done. We no longer have the excuse of heat fatigue to sit about doing nothing…We accomplish the most in fall and spring.

When our son and his buddy were here last week, they helped E bring two more water tanks over. Essentially illustrating why we had children.

They heaved them up the hill and into place with not so much as a deep breath.

Today, E added electrical outlets to the front deck and installed a water meter in the utility cupboard.

We can now plug our stereo speakers in, out on the deck and also know exactly how much (or little) water we are using, measured as it comes into the house.

I continued with my canning. I have made 8 pints of plums, 8 pints of Mediterranean Chutney, 8 pints of tomato sauce ( only ) and today we made 9 pints of applesauce.

I still have a country chutney to make as well as pear jam and canned pears. Although ready for picking the pears need a week to ripen. I wait patiently.

E helps me with the canning, coming in for the final pressure canner stage.

Plummer, electrician, cook, he wears many hats