Off The Grid

Living off the Grid on a west coast island


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to follow along

We had family to the garden for wine tonight. We have a great view but no deck.. Until we have a deck, 4 pm wine is served in our garden.. I’m not complaining, its lovely. But I look forward to the day we have a deck at the front of the house. Building a deck is on our list of things to do. Wine with family, (and friends)  while we watch the sunset would be amazing                                                      .may 31 037

Conversation came up, as it does and I don’t know how. Names were mentioned of friends from long long ago. Two of our closest friends from back in the day have been gone (to cancer ) for 8 years.. Aside from the wrongness and sadness of it all, their deaths remind of us of the preciousness of time. There are clichés out there to remind us not to waste time. Facebook sites to share and life coach quotes to repeat.. galore.. But when it comes down to it.. most of us just worry about paying the bills.. Time isn’t available to think about much else.

Here on this island, tonight, the bills are here, medical issues exist. We accept our time is precious and we work hard at ensuring that our happiness is paramount..

Nothing is more important than embracing the present.

Appreciating all that we have.                                                                                       june 7 082

Most people would not like this life.  I know it isn’t for everyone. My blog is not written to promote our lifestyle as one that is the best. It isn’t. Living off grid away from the maddening crowd, however, is the lifestyle for E and I. It is a little different of a lifestyle from the norm and so I write about it. Those who are interested in the trials and tribulations seem to enjoy following along.. Other islanders, when away, like to keep in touch with the goings on….. But for the majority of our old friends, my blog would probably be pretty boring stuff. It’s hard to relate to conversations about septic systems and batteries. Lord knows my eyes still tend to glaze over when wattage is discussed.

We have made some new amazing friends in the two years we have been here. Last nights bridge night proved again that we are among kind patient people who are easily convinced to look past our faults… ( 4 spades? I meant 1 club.. can we go back?)… For those of our old friends who are gone.. we miss you.. To those of our friends new and old, who follow along.. feel free to comment, I would love to hear from you. To those of you I don’t know, who are interested in our life living off grid in BC Gulf Islands, I am honoured that you also chose

to follow along.

 


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A harmful influence

I need to write this one in response to a couple of blogs/discussions I have read/heard about the state of our youth.

I was one of those parents you criticize and my children are those you were worried about… I watched them as they played on the street. Our eldest son is the same age as Michael Dunnahey and that made a real difference on how we raised them. Our children were rarely out of our sight.

I drove our kids to and from school, friends, hockey games and parties.

Our daughter at 15 worked a shift at mcdonalds which ended at 3am. We were at the door to drive her home at the end if her shift.

They were sheltered and protected. (And loved unconditionally)

When they were 18 they travelled across the country to university. With savings from summer jobs they have travelled the world with their friends. One of them walked the Great Wall of China, and wandered most of Europe, one has sky dived in Australia and scuba dived in Thailand . Another hang glided in Austria, climbed Manchu Pichu and swum with sharks in the Galapagos. Two have slept under trafalagar fountain after missing curfew at their hostel in London. (Different trips four years apart)

We have a wild fire fighter, a business major and a social worker.

We kept them safe while we had them. We always knew where they were and it often involved underage drinking and excessive partying.
Then we sent them out on their own.

Their friends are just as fearless as they are. They have travelled more than we ever had the inspiration to do in our twenties. They are concerned about their fellow man, their environment and have grown up knowing nothing but unconditional acceptance for those of different sexual, political or religious persuasion.

I am not worried at all about handing our world to them. They seem to have thrived by spending their childhood protected and sheltered. Their childhoods were different than ours but no worse. Access to recreational Video games and computer access were a benefit not
a harmful influence.


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and.. and… and….

We were running on empty this morning…  Olympic watching has required more diesel than normal this winter. Not at all like yesterdays brutal storm, today was sunny with calm winds.. So we popped over to town for a fuel run. Four diesel, one gas, a small propane and two jugs of water… (from a tap in Nanaimo)

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We didn’t have any other reason to be in town so took the opportunity to price out one of our next projects… We have a store picked out (Shar-kar) for the wire (2 inch stucco mesh) and now just have to figure out a plan and my new garden fence will be on the go.  Last year the deer were able to sneak some tomato plants through the fence. That problem needs to be fixed and I have a couple of other things I want to do before the garden starts to grow for the season. The current wire will be repurposed for tomato cages and tree protection. Clematis is already starting to come in so we need to get on it… Our sons have offered their services for projects too big for E alone so I am thinking we will take them up on their offer for this one…It isn’t so much a difficult project as one that is under a time constraint. Once you take the fence down it needs to go right back up before the deer come over and feast…june 9 013

The fence I am picturing is like the gorgeous one at the Belgian house on the road past BH.. Those on the island will know the one I mean. In fact I think some are friends with the people who live in that house. It is funny, we all know landmarks by different names but can immediately identify a location by another’s reference.. Case in point, yesterday when I said E realized he needed to turn around from his trip after he rounded Morris’s Point.. You all know where he was.. You would also know where we were if  I said we kayaked to Shell Beach on the island in front of SoHo or we saw a dear at the bottom of Forbes Hill. I had never heard the beach next to SoHo referred to as South Beach until we moved here fulltime.. Vacationing on that side of the island we always just called it the Marine Park… The names seem self-evident once used….

I have a large collection of unfinished winter projects. I wonder if they will be touched if I haven’t completed them by now. The yard work is too appealing… The garden needs to be weeded, I need to finish pruning the apple trees, sew the poppy seeds, rake the debris from the storm, move the compost boxes, lay a rock border down to the house, tidy behind the outhouse, there is wood to split, garden fences to build and we need to throw a torch on the burn pile…..

and .. and … and….


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let them leave

I know, I know two posts in one day.. enough already.. but I wanted to sum up the whole wind situation.

When we got up this morning there was debris on our deck. It might not look like much to you but when those branches were landing on our roof at midnight and trees were swirling around our heads… it was well, let us say, interesting.

feb 16 013 We  walked around our neighbors properties and drove around to SoHo to check on things.. There were lots and lots of branches down, very few limbs and a couple of skinny trees. Nothing too bad.  The water was flat calm and it was sunny out. You would never know that last nights entertainment was a minor hurricane.

The winds returned mid day. Our friends who had to, were able to get off island. We had to wait until our son finished his exam to pick him up and that wasn’t going to be until 5ish. We were watching the waters from our living room window pretty carefully. Environment Canada was saying 25 – 35 km  (gusting to 45 km) and the white caps were substantial. We (naively) figured our boat could handle it and E was game. I had my heart set on our son continuing his visit for a few days and E didn’t want to disappoint me..
Just before it was time to head across the channel to get our son, this tug boat headed by….

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E wasn’t worried.. In fact he was kind of looking forward to challenging the TinMan and seeing how it made out…besides we really wanted a visit with our son.. (we miss our kids)

E headed across around 4:30 and it wasn’t too rough on the east side of the island. It was bumpy but not hairy thru to Ruxton Passage. Once he got past Morris’s and around the point there were huge standing waves, with peaks.. and it became obvious that he was just being stupid.. The driving rain didn’t help.. There was water coming over the top of the boat dripping thru the zippers and he was getting soaked. but it wasn’t just the water. With each post wave slam down it became more and more apparent that his trip was foolish.. It then became a challenge to find a moment to turn around between giant waves…. That done, he bounced back around to PC and fought the wind to get into his berth…

He called me then to tell me his tale and my first response was “you came back without him?”  He assured me that having remained on the right side of the ocean was more important than me visiting with one of our kids.. I begrudgingly agreed.. ( sniff sniff)….

There was a large freighter moored outside of PC last night that found itself south of Ruxton this morning. Our son is currently on a wild ferry ride across Georgia Straight. Perhaps what we should learn from our adventures this last 24 hours is that during Environment Canada posted wind warning periods, we should just pour another glass of wine and watch a hockey game. But  what I have learned is that once we get a kid over here to visit.. we shouldn’t

let them leave


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end of the cliff

On Friday we went to town. A visit to the dump and then to Sleggs. E can really show a girl a good time on Valentines Day. We bought the hardwood to patch the floor in the kitchen nook and den. The house came with an eating nook but we came with a dining room set and six chairs… The benches had to go.. We need to repair the floor so the table can butt  up against the window and I can have my morning coffee and stare at sea lions.. (drat I promised myself, that I wouldn’t mention sea lions today)… (oh dear I did it again)…..

Our eldest son works for Wildfire Management and has been posted near us this season. He can be deployed all around the province but his base camp is near us so hopefully he will be able to visit. He works on what they call RAP attack.. Three person teams who jump out of hovering helicopters into remote places to put out small fires (lightening caused) before they can become big fires… As you can well imagine this is a dream job for a guy in his twenties with a Forestry degree in Conservation. So long story short he is in town getting requalified for his first aid and is visiting for a few days…I see wood splitting in his future.. 🙂

The problem we have had with his visit is the timing of the winds. The weather has been interesting. We have had to pick our windows carefully for trips across the channel. E drove him over early for his exam yesterday as there were high winds predicted.. gusting to 100 km !!  I didn’t really believe them and I probably should have. Last night just after we went to bed the winds were blowing I don’t know.. strong but not unusually strong. and then whewww! gusts of 100 km… small branches were landing on the house, Sammi was freaking out… We have a skylight above our bed and we could watch the trees bend down and touch their toes above us… E promised not to let go of me if we should find our selves floating in the channel.

They are saying gusts of 100 km again today sometime and we are hoping to pick up our son before it starts… E has been up to check on the W’s and everything looks in order. When we finish our coffee we will take a drive around the island and check on our friends houses and SoHo… We have lots of little branches around our pathway but can see nothing major… The squirrels are happy that the pine cones have come to the them but the birds seem to be a little shell-shocked… Six hours clinging to branches in those winds will wear out a little bitty bird…

But so far we are still on the right end of the cliff.IMG-20110807-00085


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drawn the line

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We got up this morning and the temperatures and weather was so much better than it had been at the beginning of the week. We  watched a bit of the Olympics before we put our coffee cups down and went outside to take advantage of the warmer weather and  get something accomplished. I filled the wood bin, sorted the recycling, washed a few windows, and weeded in the garden.

I read in a book that you should scatter poppy seeds while the ground is still frozen and then as the ground thaws the seeds will settle into the soil. I did that last year and the poppies did very well..  I went up to the garden yesterday to sew my poppy seeds but the ground was frozen and the garden overgrown.. the chickweed had taken over and you couldn’t see the garden for the weed. Difficult to weed when the ground is frozen but I was still able to work for three hours  puttering and dead heading. Three hours in the garden in February is a great treat for me.

I had another three hours in the garden today. I worked on the moss rockery behind the vegetable garden. It is the perfect time to weed in there.. The ground that was frozen yesterday was much warmer today and in fact quite muddy. It was mild  (8 degrees) and really pleasant to be outside puttering in the garden.

E was out gathering wood again. He took a load to SoHo, and one to our friends. He had other things to accomplish at SoHo and down at Pirates Cove.. Trucks to start, boats to start, propane tanks to sort out…. all part of his monthly routine. It was such a great day to be outside getting things done. He seems to have completely recovered from the Bells Palsy he experienced last month and when he see the Doctors next month we expect a clean bill of health.

When I was a kid we had 22 kids on our street. All summer long we played outside.. We played Kick the Can, we played Wave and we played Mumbley Peg. Anywhere on the street was in bounds. Home plate for Kick the Can and Wave was on Sandy’s driveway.  Mumbley Peg was always played on the Caldwell’s front lawn… Now for those of you who were born later than 1970 here are the rules for Mumbley Peg. (on our street). Two kids stand opposite from one another, feet shoulder-width apart. The first kid takes his pocket knife and throws it at the ground, so that it sticks into the ground as close as possible to other guys foot. The second player take his knife and does the same. Then you each take a step back and go again. First guy who doesn’t get the knife to stick in the ground loses. We all had our own pocket knives.

It didn’t seem to concern our parents that we were on the street throwing knives at each other. Dangerous a game as this seems, it never occurred to us to ski backwards down a ski hill before jumping off a jump backward and then again skiing backwards to the next jump. If we did the things these awesome kids in the Olympics are doing, I am pretty sure our parents would have

drawn the line.


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under their door

We were able to see the family home built from its conception. When we stay there we remember the early days and the stages Papa and Guy went through to see it built. We remember  sleeping in the house on cots the night before the Adobe was put on the interior walls. We remember the hundreds of stones we threw into the gully to clear way for our beautiful front lawn. Our children’s initials are carved in the foundation of the wood shed they helped Papa build one summer. That is the way it is when you build a dream tree by tree, rock by rock.

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We know the R’s feel the same way about this house. They left us pictures of the construction so we could share in the stages they went through. But we will never know the secrets they know. The rock that wouldn’t move, the board cut with a borrowed blade. One of the pictures they left showed their friends helping  carry the 300 pound wood stove down the hill to the kitchen in 1989. One of the friends carrying the stove was Papa. Ironically 23 years later our nephew, (Papas grandson) helped to carry our new fireplace down the hill to the living room.

These secrets are also held by those who built the foundations of the island. The roads, the docks and the building sites. One of the men who was integral to all of these foundations still lives on the island. The first night he slept here was visiting with his mother in 1941. I think he said he was one month old. He has agreed to tell me some of the stories for an article in the Tidelines. We have two subjects picked out. He has brought pictures over and I have begun to take notes. I think these stories will be of keen interest for those of us who are relative new comers.

I have mentioned before that my Grandfather was a builder too. He was a carpenter in Ontario before he and my Grandma retired to a house on Dunbar in Vancouver. I know a secret about that house. Where there was solid wall in my Grandmothers kitchen, she wanted a window over her kitchen sink. It was at the time when BC Electric was retiring the street cars. Grandpa went down to the scrap sale and bought a window from a street car. You know the kind that slides up… He installed that window over the kitchen sink and it is still there. I see it when we visit town and drive down Dunbar. I often think I should knock on their door and tell them the history of their kitchen window… On second thought maybe they too don’t like strangers ringing their door bell. Maybe I should just slip a note

under their door.


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with his brain

feb 9 3 012

TinMan collection

It is a funny name to christen a boat unless you know why…

In 1999 when E was carrying a beeper waiting for his new heart, there was a knock at the door. One of our friends arrived with a stuffed Tinman.  “A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others” .”For good luck ” they said..  The next week another came to the door with a Tinman figurine…. And they kept coming. It became the good luck theme as we waited for his new heart.

After his surgery when he was safe and sound, E’s brother arranged for him to get a personalized license plate for his car.. TINMAN.

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It seemed the logical thing to do when we traded in the car for a boat to name the boat TinMan..

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In the summer of 1980, I was looking for a present to give E for his birthday before we spent two weeks sailing around the gulf islands for our honeymoon. I walked passed the fishing tackle store, and Victoria Secret and went into Bowrings. They had exclusive rights to sell a new independent Canadian game just on the market called “Trivial Pursuit” It was 35.00. I bought it and spent my entire (almost) honeymoon asking E trivia questions. As you may recall the rules of the game are that your turn continues until you get a question wrong. E has a mind filled with useless knowledge which he credits to a lifetime subscription to National Geographic. Occasionally he got hungry or thirsty and purposely got one wrong so he could take a break and I would get a turn.  Thirty two years later he can’t remember where he left his glasses but can still tell you what year it is in Ethiopia (Julien Calendar).

While driving an old friend home from a girls night out my friend looked at the TINMAN license plate and seemingly unclear on the The Wizard of Oz movie said to me “I don’t get it. There isn’t anything wrong with his brain”


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they are Gumby

Blue skies and sunny again today. A beautiful day but bitterly cold.

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Sunset Feb 8, 2014

Red skies at night sailors delight.

We brought a down quilt to the den this morning to watch some Olympics.   Good grief it was cold!  I was under two blankets and the down quilt as I gripped my hot coffee and turned the games on.

We were watching the women’s mogul run and it made my knees ache just watching. E advises that moguls are “easy” when you are in your twenties. My experiences skiing were different from his.. He was a ski bum back in the days when they would ski til they would drop, and then sleep in the back of their cars at the Whistler City dump.  (where downtown Whistler is now).  An annual pass was 120.00.

My friend Mary convinced  me that I wanted to learn to ski in Grade 7.  We caught the bus behind Ivor Williams in Kerrisdale on Saturday mornings for the hour-long trip to the top of Grouse Mountain. The first Saturday, we were assigned to groups. Mary and I went to a beginners class taught by my friend Bills sister. She took us to the bunny hill and started us off down the mountain… three feet and I fell.. another three feet and I fell…. The class was on the Tbar going back up the hill while I proceeded three feet at a time to the bottom.. My teacher tried to get me to go up the TBar. Try as I might as soon as there was tension.. I fell…. It was so foggy on the mountain that day that I imagined in my mind the Swiss Alps in the James Bond movie we had seen on New Years. (Her Majesties Secret Service).. I had no idea the hill wasnt as steep as Marys driveway….

Four years later Mary organised a girls ski trip on semester break to Manning Park. I have no idea why she was always getting me into these situations.. I said I couldn’t go cause I didn’t have any skis.. She borrowed a pair for me from Susan… First day on the mountain we ran into a boy from my school who I had a huge crush on… All my high school friends who read this will know just who I mean…. I pretended I could ski and agreed to spend the afternoon skiing with him.. (what was I thinking?)… he set off down the run and I followed like I knew what I was doing…. and I went straight off a cliff and thumped to a halt at the base of a tree surrounded by broken skis.. Big surprise, he kept going and left me there…. I still remember a girl asking her Mom “why is that girl walking down the mountain?”

I hate skiing and I hate being cold and I am in complete awe of all these kids flying around Russian Mountains like

feb 7 003

When it is time for bed Sammi stands at the bedroom door with his bear

they are Gumby


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Yesterday it was blue skies and sunny around here.. but noticeably colder.. Out of the wind, up at our neighbours lot we were able to get another truck load of wood and drop it by our shed.  I rekindled the neighbours fire to keep warm  clear more debris for him. The wood is all gone now until he gets his excavator going again.. Two of our sheds were empty when this began last week. We have brought down 7 truck loads of wood and it is just ready to be split and stacked… As of yesterday afternoon this is where we stood. It is wood we expect to be using the winter of 15/16.

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E was going to continue splitting today but it was sooo much colder. We bundled up and went down to the den to watch the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics. After two hours of arbutus wood burning in the stove, not five feet away from where we were sitting, it was still ten degrees colder in the den.. only 12 degrees!!!! I was under two blankets and Sammi was hidden deep underneath too…

Two sea lions ( I have named them Loud and Also Loud) were partying outside our window at 4 AM again… I was ready to throw a bucket of water on their heads when I remembered why I live here.  They and all of their friends returned during the Opening Ceremonies. We put the Olympics on pause to take some pictures..  In keeping with the Olympic theme of the day they were having a grand ol time performing a synchronized swim routine…

Check out the video under the utube link on the main page.

The ceremonies have finished, the sea lions are still playing outside and we are back upstairs in front of the fire with our books and coffee. There are small little white things flying in the sky (snow)… There will be no

wood splitting today

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** note  by three pm it was blue skies and sunny again.. we still aren’t going to do any work