needs a Frank

We have Frank and his dog, Beans.

He lives at our garden gate with a bin where neighbours and friends can leave mail for us. They might pick up a flash drive or a paint brush or a newsletter. E’s cryptic crossword arrives religiously every week. A myriad of items are often exchanged with friends and have been left in the bin since last March. It is a Covid addition to our property and it works well for us. I had the opportunity to deliver newsletters around the island last week and only one couple had a designated mail bin and they live at the bottom of a very steep cliff. I left newsletters on car seats, bbq’s and under door mats. I just kind of stuck the newsletters randomly where ever I could find a spot out of the rain.

Lots of seeds have been started in trays located for now, in the guest room. I planted fifty tomato seeds just before I reread my notes from last year. “Gave away 55 pounds of tomatoes from 28 plants, next year only plant ten”. If all of the seeds germinate maybe I will give away plants instead of tomatoes. I really have little room this year in the garden, ’cause I keep ordering more flowers. Let’s be honest, E and I don’t eat that many vegetables and I prefer growing flowers.

I have spent way more money than I care to tell E on new plants. Last year we built the bunkie and next year we are going to rebuild the workshop but this is my garden year.

When we bought our family home in 1992, we bought it for the yard. I really didn’t care that the house was nice. I walked straight through the front door and out onto the patio, looked around and said this is the one. It was a giant overgrown lawn on about a 1/4 acre lot with diseased fruit trees.

Our Ex- Premier Vanderzalm used to host a plant sale at the back of his property every year and I would spend my small annual plant allowance there on trees and shrubs. I never had money for annuals. There was no money for building the garden beds or the pathways of my dreams but I knew what I wanted to do one day and just kept planting baby trees and shrubs in anticipation of the day when I could build the garden beds of my plans. My kids probably still haven’t forgiven me for making them cut the lawn around the tree obstacle course. I was young and had lots of time to wait for the trees and shrubs to grow. The garden did turn out beautifully with paths winding past various garden areas. But I don’t have that kind of time any more. There is no time to waste. I am going to spend whatever I have to, to be able to enjoy the fruits of my labour sooner than later. I am so excited!

I started to take apart the compost bin today to see what kind of goodness was inside. Keep in mind these bins were emptied last May. This, dear readers, is pure gold.

During non-pandemic times I know people like to drop items off in person for a quick chat. I get it, but honestly, I can’t recommend the Frank concept high enough. So much so, that without telling him, I have added a more permanent proper mail box to E’s to do list. Everyone

needs a Frank

of my priorities

It has been a little over two weeks since last we spoke which is, coincidentally, when we opened our last bottle of wine. In anticipation of many warm summer nights with a cold pinot gris on the deck we have signed on for yet one more dry month. My ability to write something even remotely interesting directly corresponds with my access to wine, but I will give it a go.

I planted my peas in the garden yesterday. I know it’s early but I have tons and they may just thrive. An experiment if you will. We have to soak them first or the little mice will dig them up. Once the pods have a root, the mice will leave them alone. I hope. The onions are doing well in the house so far, as are the red peppers. The lettuce and spinach seeds have been started and are also on my dining room table.

We have a barge coming next week which will bring over everything we need to finish the greenhouse and the garden. There are also supplies arriving for the railing on the bunkie deck and to finish a couple of projects in the ever continuing reno job on our main house which we began 4 years ago. The reno jobs will, fortunately, never be finished and so provide endless entertainment for E.

The greenhouse, like the bunkie, will be able to use up a lot of the remaining materials we saved from our original house. For example the tiles from the old fireplace are going to be my counter tops, the bins holding all our stuff from town are now empty and will be painted black to hold water under the counters. Left over insulation panels can go behind the water bins. It is going to have cedar siding to match the bunkie and old windows from various houses. Mary gave me a couple of old stained glass windows from her house and my sister in law donated a couple of cut glass windows from a demo in Point Grey. E is even going to wire it for lighting in case I have the urge to plant seeds in the night.

Last year we had guests who donated a tub full of extra plumbing bits to E. It occurred to me I am also going to need a sink, when E said he had just the thing. The tub full of plumbing bits is actually a sink and there are legs included. Thanks Don!

We had an amazing visit by a pod of Orca under our deck this week. As always they were hesitant to hold still for a photo but here is a glimpse.

The fact that the greenhouse will have its cedar siding finished before the main house gives you an indication

of my priorities

sit me down

Planning greenhouse designs and garden changes does require some thought. Often when either of us are thinking such complex thoughts, we close our eyes. To the casual observer it might look like we are sleeping but, far from it, we are actually problem solving and grand scheming. E finds he does his best thinking prone in our bedroom. He has been thinking this way, every afternoon after lunch, since his surgery in 2000.

For the last two years Piper likes to think alongside him. If E, as often happens, is delayed past one pm with the day’s project, Piper will go ahead into our room to get the thinking started. They think together for a couple of hours and return refreshed and with all of life’s problems solved.

Since having children I have learned to do my best thinking sitting up in my chair. Often, for maximum concentration, my eyes are closed, but I assure you the cogs are turning. Shanty, apparently, doesn’t like to think in the afternoon so I have to save a chew stick to occupy her until all of our thinking is done.

I don’t know if it was because restaurants were closed last spring but we were able to take advantage of a great offer of fresh Halibut for an amazing price from a local fisherman. We bought thirty pounds and vacuum sealed it into forty 3/4 pound packages. We have budgeted them to once a week and have ten left. E has played with several recipes and has now specialized his craft to three awesome dinners, one of which will be on the table tonight. Normally, we would be drinking our $3.00 home made Pinot Gris but tonight we are going to splurge and open a bottle of the nice wine we bought on our last wine trip to the Oliver bench. Maybe, I like to think, we will be able to take a trip like that again one day

It did snow here, not very much down at the house, close to the water, but up top at the garden area there is maybe six inches. After we had finished today’s thinking, I took Shanty up to the top of the hill for her walk about and I was reminded on the way back that what is a steep windy driveway in the summer is a luge track in the snow, complete now with puppy poopage obstacles. At the end of the luge track is a cliff.

I thought you might be interested, so I very very carefully went back down to the house for my camera and climbed back up to the midpoint for a picture. Apparently, I was quite correct that it was dangerous because on my second trip back, I slid the last five feet on my sit me down. Fortunately, it is warming up, the snow will be gone soon, and I have an ample

sit me down

end of winter

With the intention of sorting out his affairs, E’s Dad wanted to transfer ownership of his mini van to E. He was living with us at the time, in palliative care, ticking items off his list one task at a time. But now it was December 24th of 2008 and there was a huge snowstorm in the lower mainland. Snow or no snow, E and our youngest son ventured out to the mall on Christmas Eve to submit the transfer papers for his Dad and while they were at it, pick up some last minute items from London Drugs. You can picture the scene. Christmas crowds in the village parking lot with very few of the shoppers capable of driving in the blizzard like conditions. After a lifetime driving treacherous roads to ski hills, E likes driving in the snow. it would pose no problem.

His experience is very different than mine. I got my drivers license when I was 21, never skied and never drove in the snow again after I slid my Mustang sideways down the Dunbar hill when I was 22.

Snow is expected tomorrow. We have had three days of below zero temperatures. Although cold outside, it finally isn’t raining and E has been able to work up at the greenhouse construction site. I am in charge of keeping the house warm. This task mostly involves reading gardening magazines and adding the occasional log to the fire. It is an important job. E needs to come down to a warm house when he is done working.

Our new method of preventing the pipes from freezing is working beautifully. Hot water is heated for free in the range boiler by the wood stove. It then drips out the deck hot water tap into a hose which is strung under the deck and fed into our rain catchment tank. When the tank fills to 350 gallons it automatically pumps back up to our reserve tanks. No water loss. Warm water flowing through the pipes for days on end. Brilliant.

We stole the idea of having a hot water tap outside on the deck from E’s Dad as he put one at the island family home. His was originally for outdoor showering but we use ours for washing muddy dogs and now, apparently, to keep our pipes from freezing. So far so good. Where was I?

Right, so E and our son were in the mall traffic jam on Christmas Eve 2008, driving E’s Dad’s car which E has owned for less than an hour. He is at a dead stand still waiting to turn right out of the parking lot in the storm when a snow plow backed into him and totaled the window at the back of the van. He had wrecked his Dad’s car in less than an hour.

So tomorrow we will have snow here but there will be no driving anywhere by either of us. By Sunday there will be no more below zero temps predicted for at least for the next two weeks. Then it’s March which means sunshine, daffodils and the

end of winter.

Accomplish anything useful

In our early years together, we spent every Saturday morning with E’s grandmother. When we arrived, she would present us with several scraps of paper where she would have recorded her thoughts during the week. There would be a grocery list, an errand list and often a direct mail flyer with random thoughts scrambled in bullet form on the back.

The grocery list would routinely remind us that she didn’t like bananas, had never had bananas in her house, in fact threw out two last week, or don’t buy Scotch brand items as they were, you know, Scotch and don’t forget to buy enough Peak Frean cookies for the dog.

The errand list might include a stop at the bank to pay bills and or a stop at Norm’s grocery store to buy her son Ray some root beer. There would be an explanation, every week, that when Ray visits he likes to have root beer. Although the lists always outlined the same errands, they would be repeated every week in great detail on little scraps of paper.

The random thought scrap of paper would include items like “the neighbour lady came by, she is very nice but I don’t understand a word she says” or a reminder that it was Beethoven’s birthday on Wednesday or, my favorite, “Don’t adopt any black dogs from now on. I don’t like black dogs.”

I find myself now more like E’s Grandma than I ever wanted with regards to her scrap paper, note making habit. It started in earnest when we moved here and I was endlessly making lists, grocery lists, to do lists for the property, to do lists for the garden, reminders of what meal I made for guests, lists of what tomatoes I planted this year, lists of plants I would love to try next year, lists of plants I am never growing again…

There are also books of notes. I have one for quilting plans and materials. One for the on going management of the pantry and freezer. One to track water levels. One for urgent items I need to write down, now, right now, I can’t forget that! All of the note books, scraps of paper and notes written on file cards surround me as I sit here in my chair. They are every where. It would not surprise me at all if they are breeding.

We were watching an old episode of “The Office” and well yadda yadda yadda they were in the parking lot killing time during a fire drill, playing “Desert Island.” So the question is asked of everyone, “what five books would you want with you if you are going to be stranded on a desert island for ten years?” Interesting question for all of you.

I thought it was weird that no one else had my book list. I would would want five large journals filled with hundreds of empty pages so I could have somewhere to write all my thoughts. I could not survive for ten years if I couldn’t record my random thoughts and, Lord knows, without a list I would never

accomplish anything useful

builds, I burn

I realize I should not be so happy, but I am, and I apologize. It is clear and cold and we are able to get outside to work in the fresh air and I am sorry, but my life is fairly perfect at the moment. You have to understand we spent the majority of our forties and early fifties in hospital rooms and doctor offices. Knock on wood, pandemic and all, we are healthy and happy. I know the world is suffering but for fifteen years we went through a lot of shit and now we are safe and together. Selfish sure….but I just need to focus on our world.

We got up at 5:30 this morning and it was 12 degrees in the house. Someone insists on sleeping with the window open in our bedroom and she is at fault. “She” also sees no reason to heat the living room while we are sleeping so she, as my mother would say “reaps what she sows. It is supposed to be unusually cold this week so it is unlikely to be any different tomorrow morning.

At 5:30 am, I put on an extra fleece while I wait for the coffee to brew and stoke the fire. As we wait for the stove to do it’s thing, we close the bedroom doors and snuggle under blankets with the dogs for an hour or two. At eighteen degrees I can leave my blankie to think about breakfast. These days breakfast is always hot porridge as it warms me inside to out. E makes it for us cause his porridge is better than I can make.

The greenhouse has begun. E has two walls finished and up and one more to be raised tomorrow. We called a friend down the lane to help raise the walls cause I am neither strong nor tall.

It is going to be a fairly tall greenhouse as they go. It will be 12 X 7. Eight foot walls and the peak inside at 11 feet. I cannot tell you how excited I am to sort out the interior once it is built.

While E constructs, I continue to dig around the property for debris to burn. There is a never ending supply of wood on the property, which we have saved for projects, which now needs to be discarded. Fortunately, I love to burn shit up! So while E

builds, I burn.