Off The Grid

Living off the Grid on a west coast island


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Rain would stop

Rainy day. Indoor jobs. Too windy for Craig to come over.

E added the crown molding to the Ikea cabinets, the backing to the kitchen island and put a counter top on the bathroom cupboard. Small jobs, not complicated and certainly fairly low on the priority list. But tasks that need to be finished and it’s nice to have the time to chip away at them. The weather is so miserable that we are happy to be working inside.

Everyday at four, I take the dog to shake his leg and we walk past the garden. Breaks my heart. I wasn’t in the garden last summer more than a handful of times. I certainly never had the chance to properly put it to bed for the winter. It is out of control and an embarrassment.

I was looking at pictures of the garden beds from three years ago and I had such hopes… sigh… the minute the rain stops I am taking my clippers to the trees and shrubs and roses. I am going to be brutal, a drastic prune to everything. I am going to be ruthless pulling plants out that I do not like. I am going to be brave and move some of the grasses from Marion into the driveway rockery beds.. I can hardly wait….

New catalogue from Brecks bulbs came in the mail.. big sale prices if I order before Feb 2. I was very careful and sorted out the specialty bulbs that I needed, were absolutely necessary from the ones that were just okay… added them up and even at half price they come to several hundred dollars… hmmmm

So I went through them again… and again.. each time being more selective…I am finally left with a nice selection of a few new plants to try.. hanging begonias, freesia, phlox, gladiolus and pink coneflowers…they are all listed as deer resistant, which on this island is ludicrous. All will be planted behind a fence except the hanging begonias….I’m hoping I can hang the begonias on the back deck at the front door, high away from the deer.

The highlight of winter for me is when the seed catalogues and gardening magazines start to arrive in the mail..I am eager to get the garden back in shape and plant up the driveway beds….if only the

rain would stop


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inches of rain

Most everyone has left the island for warmer, less monsoon like conditions. E and Craig are attacking the inside job list… wood trims etc.

To say it has been rainy would be an understatement. To say it has been crazy rainy and incredibly windy would be less so. On the upside, the temperatures are mild, during the day somewhere around 9 degrees C. It hasn’t gone below zero all winter. We have taken the down quilts off the bed.

Poor weather hasn’t really mattered. We haven’t gone anywhere.  After a brief twelve-hour window of feeling well enough to go out for dinner on Saturday, I ended up back on the couch all week. If today is the 18th… the 2018 score is flu 15.. me 3.

I have had absolutely no inclination to do much of anything but cuddle with my dog and a blanket. But the rain and my coughing stopped today for an hour and I grabbed the dog and the camera to fill a desperate need for fresh air. We headed out to embrace the sweet smells of wet forest, wonder at the colours of green and jump in the deep puddles.

Our nieghbours pond, which goes dry in the summer is full to the brim.

I wandered up to the mossy bit above our house in front of the studio. The dog has been up there barking insanely every night all winter. I thought maybe the deer were hanging out there and I might find a winter antler shed.

Many of you remember the horrid story of our dog’s lost battle with an otter.. If not, you can catch up here.(otter).. Much to my horror all of the moss on the mossy bit above our bedroom is covered in otter poopage…. they have also made a slide down past our bedroom window to the water… little buggers…. This is not good. Not good at all…..

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On our way back down to the house, I checked the sweet froggy rain meter which I received for Christmas…. that is five

inches of rain!                                 img_6477-1

 


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enjoyed it thoroughly

I love to read. True.. But all of the books I read come under the same heading in the library. Fiction, Mystery… I have never stepped foot in the fantasy area of the stacks. I have never read Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. To my daughters endless disappointment,  I fell asleep during the Harry Potter movies and never even tried to watch any of the Lord of the Rings.

The first thing you do when you have ten gorgeous new six-foot windows installed around your living room is to install solar shades. Admittedly, too much sunshine isn’t a current worry but it will be an issue this summer. The more pressing concern for the last two weeks was the clarity of the TV picture during the day.

I was one of the few people in my family let alone the planet who had not read any of the Game of Throne books or seen any of the shows. Knocked to the couch by the 2018 flu bug the only thing we both could do was rest, watch TV and pass the Kleenex. I wasn’t going anywhere soon. This was it, albeit a little late, my chance to be a part of the worldwide conversation. We started Game of Thrones.

The first twenty episodes (two seasons) consisted mostly of E answering my endless questions. Who is he? Where are they? Do we know this guy? There are two guys sleeping with their daughters? But isn’t she his sister? How can they kill him? He’s dead? Isn’t he the hero? ………I’m lost…. E was very patient.

My friend Janice wisely suggested I get a geographic map, a list of characters and the family groupings off the google.. I spent season three with the map and a flashlight huddled on the couch as the shows played in front of me.  I tried to answer my own questions and finally keep up. Ten more episodes under my belt and I felt I had a pretty good grasp of the situation, everyone dies.. don’t get attached.

By the middle of season four I was seriously addicted. We watched the last two episodes of season four and all ten of season five in one day. If you are doing the math that is twelve hours of TV in a day….We did break at 4 pm for the dogs walk but for most of season five we didn’t move or talk unless to ask for the box of Kleenex .

Season six, was pretty much finished in a day also. But we were both feeling better so actually stopped to make a proper dinner.. Up to then we were reheating leftovers from the freezer… We have two episodes left of season seven.. We are saving them for tonight.

We are both finally over this horrid bug. My only defence of laying on the couch for ten days watching TV is that it was literally the only way to fight this thing. I can’t imagine a more unlikely way for us to spend our time here on this island, and yet we did it… and enjoyed it thoroughly


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great is that

Saturday afternoon I received the following text from my son.

I need a dentist… does Ron do Saturdays? puck to face

When we moved to L in 1989,  E joined a men’s recreational hockey team. He met some great friends on the team. Those guys went on to coach their sons together and shared a great social/athletic circle over the fifteen odd years we had kids in the minor hockey league.

E was playing hockey six months after his heart transplant. He had to hang up his skates when he was fifty not because of the heart transplant but because of his back.. He would play and then not be able to stand straight for two days…. His main goal coaching was to instill a love of the game which would see the boys shooting pucks together throughout their lives.

After I finished paying $6000.00 for each of my sons beautiful straight smiles at the Orthodontist, Ron, our dentist told me if there was ever a hockey incident and I needed him, I was to collect the teeth off the ice, keep them cold and call him. He would meet me at the office… There was a broken wrist once but never a tooth related emergency.

Our sons now play on a recreational hockey team together. At Christmas they hold an annual charity game in the same rink where they learned to skate in L’il Gretskys. The proceeds go to the local hospital foundation. This, the fifth year, they raised $4000.00. E couldn’t be more pleased that all those early morning hours on the ice have given these boys an avenue for healthy competition and friendship for life. That they see the reason to give back to the community which did so much for them growing up, makes us all very proud.

zephers

My sons text was news I’ve been prepared for, for 26 years…. I texted our dentist at his home, he thankfully responded right away.  I told son to meet Ron at his office.. Son says needs stitches to his face first and is sitting in a packed emergency ward… I said, save your teeth, go to Ron’s office first….

Ortho was worth every penny when he decided to leave a bar behind on my sons lower teeth to keep them from going crooked again. That bar and the mouth guard spread the impact of the puck to his mouth and held the teeth in place. The three teeth are, for the moment alive and attached to the bone… Ron checked him out, will keep an eye on him and stitched all the cuts. All is well. Son has some new scars, will have a great story to tell and probably score a few beer at the bar.

Ron, has been taking care of our families teeth for 26 years. E required special consideration post transplant and Ron was on it.. When we moved to the island we refused to give him up. His staff goes above and way beyond all expectations to fit us in around his transplant clinic appointments every spring and fall.

Living out on this island, far away from our kids and the town where we raised them, I was able to pick up the phone and call our dentist at four o clock on a Saturday and he dropped everything to meet our son at his office to help. How

great is that

ian and kids hockey

 

 

 


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me so well

E has a very long list of problems to solve.. Last week it was the water. He did. We now have on demand hot water, in a steady stream for showers and baths.. We can now shower whenever we want… willy nilly… at least during the winter when we have water in our well. In the summer we will still need to be prudent but, I expect to be less aromatic than last year….

We had a lovely New Years shared with good friends old and new. There were forty at the dinner, maybe another twenty through the night, seventeen in the polar bear swim and probably forty for New Years day lunch at Tim and Alison’s… We got to bed after 2 am on New Years…We are old people.. I know that because last night we went to bed at 7 and slept for twelve hours…

Today, we have sufficiently recovered to move forward with further optimising our new systems.  E tackled his next problem…We want to run the well pump off the new inverter batteries. In the past we have had to run the Kubota generator to pump water from the well. It required diesel gas to pump water for 40 minutes a day.  Money spent on diesel which I would rather spend on any number of other things. It took E about a half hour to install the wiring and complete the job. I gave him the rest of the day off….

New Years resolutions. We really have only one.. Try to have a less insane year than last. Although we had the greatest gift of all in August, our new granddaughter. She arrived with the earlier loss of both of our mothers. We took apart our house and put a different one back in its place. We would accept fewer highs if it means less lows and crazy this year. We expect E’s health to continue to thrive as it did last year through all the madness. I have had all the parts replaced I expect will need replacing for a while and we have the upper hand on our kidney stones….This year we would like to begin the new “routine”.

I keep moving my chair around the room to find the perfect place to put pen to paper (figuratively) and get to my writing. John is going to kill me if I don’t get this book written. Hil and Ron,  (treasured friend)  came for New Years and brought the most awesome house-warming gift. Allow me to introduce you to Mother Nature. I’ll move her around the property until I find the perfect place for Mother to watch over us…Isn’t she beautiful?

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Hil also brought me the greatest reading socks ever…. She knows

me so well.

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will have it

A little back ground information….

In 1980, when E and I decided to live in sin, he brought with him all his worldly possessions.  A five poster walnut king size water-bed, a stereo and 450 records…..He was driving a triumph GTE 6 plus… We stacked the records with bricks and boards and moved them 11 times in 8 years. My John Denver Christmas album along with a Ray Materick album (bought at a concert) were dutifully combined alphabetically..  452 record library… Music (classic rock) was always playing in our house…

When we had our second child, we agreed we could afford for me to stay at home. You know, if we scrimped and saved. Didn’t spend money on extras… It was the same year that CD players became a thing. E went to the mall with our boys to buy a new furnace filter and came home with a jungle gym and a new CD player. I mentioned we had 450 records and no CD’s. He proudly showed me his new Rod Stewart CD. I went back to work….

Scroll ahead 38 years and we live on an island in the middle of no where. We have no neighbours close enough to hear music over the rocks which surround our house. We love the sound of the eagles and the sea lions and birds… But we also love music.. We have an eclectic taste … mixed in with the Classic Rock (The Who, Clapton and the Rolling Stones) are Broadway musicals, Pavarotti, Avicii and Mark Knopfler. E has 12,563 songs in his iTunes library… But, for the last two years, no way to play them….

For Christmas, we bought ourselves a new wireless sound system. E installed it today and music has returned to our home….To our neighbours, if you can hear it… feel free to make a music request..

This weekend is the annual New Years celebration on the island. A group of thirty or forty will gather at the fire hall. After a potluck dinner there will be dancing and singing and perhaps a little champagne… E is again the DJ. If there is a song you want to dance to, or a ditty you want to sing  … he

will have it…. DSCN8762

 

 


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long hot baths

We are back from the big city.. Merry Christmas everyone….

Four days away from the house was all we were really comfortable with.. Not really confident yet in our new batteries and electric fridge, we didn’t want to come back to melted yuck all over the new floor…. In the summer with unlimited sunshine, I imagine it won’t be of any concern at all.

With everything in the house turned off except for the fridge, we used 6% of the batteries. It wasn’t particularly sunny while we were gone so the stored power in the batteries did the work. Inside of the fridge it was cold and inside of the freezer it was freezing…. All good.. Our experiment with an electric fridge run by solar power living off grid is a huge success. We are more than pleased as the winter days with cloudy skies were to be the real test..

We came home on Boxing Day at 1:30 pm. It was 2 degrees C outside the house and 3.9 degrees C inside the house… brrr friggin burrrrrr…. By 5pm  it was 15 degrees… By breakfast time the next day we were warm and cozy at 21 degrees inside and 3 degrees outside.

If you recall we have had little water pressure since July. It has frustrated us to no end wondering why the on demand hot water didn’t have enough pressure to give us a decent stream of hot water. E has tried a myriad of solutions and even considered completely repiping the water system down to the house. Remember the hours we spent digging up the driveway thinking we had a leak?

Whether or not we had hot water for a shower became a low priority when we had flooring to install and bathrooms to complete so we scheduled “sorting out our water pressure problems” until after Christmas.

Yesterday, being “after Christmas”. E turned his attention to the on demand hot water system. The tank has been moved to a utility cabinet in the bathroom. The stove-pipe to vent the tank has not been installed yet as it requires a hole cut in the new metal roof. E decided that the tank needed to be vented none the less. So he cut a hole in the interior ceiling of the bathroom so the tank is at least vented to the house. Next time Craig is here he can install the chimney and boot above the ceiling hole on the roof.

As soon as E cut the hole in the ceiling the on demand hot water tank began working correctly. Apparently the tank has a flue gas sensor which shuts off the burners if it senses gas. Who knew?

We celebrated with

long hot baths

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Could hope for

Miserable storm this week took down at least a dozen trees along the roads of the island. On the big island in front of us the power was out and friends of ours had six inches of snow. There was ice floating on the water in our marina. We had a heavy wet sleet with really just a dusting of white.. but the heavy wet sleety snow was too much for a lot of the island trees.

Our thanks to those more hearty than E and I, who were out in the storm clearing up the roads. We quite frankly, are burned out so we stayed inside by the fire, read a book and cracked open a little sambuca.

Today the sun shone over calm seas and although cold, it was a gorgeous day.. we put on our silk long johns and left our cozy house to check on a friends house and SoHo.. everything was good at the cabins we saw but we found a huge Arbutus down at the back of our property. E grabbed his chain saw and we spent the morning filling the truck with pure Arbutus gold.

To spend a full day in December working outside on firewood chores is really enjoyable for both of us. To be able to reap the firewood of winter fall trees is one of the great benefits of living here full time. We know that this wood will be so appreciated in our fireplace on a winters night years from now.

We left a ton of Arbutus leaves behind on the road. When we get back next week the deer will have cleaned it up. Arbutus leaves, for the deer, is as good a Christmas dinner as they

could hope for.


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And a roof

Apparently it is Christmas in a few days and we are going to town to see our kids. I am normally a little more prepared for the Yuletide festivities but I have been otherwise distracted..

The usual tasks for the season like writing Christmas cards, homemade hostess gifts and early shopping for presents have been neglected or completely eliminated from any likelihood of happening. I used to pride myself on finishing everything by December 1st to avoid crowds and stress.. Then I would relax and enjoy December, far away from stores and crowds.

Without anything urgent in the house to do, E is out chopping wood. The pile of rounds on the driveway he is splitting today should fill the last of our four wood sheds. We still have a large Arbutus which needs to be bucked up and split, but it can wait for a project weekend with our sons… Ideally our wood will season for three years, at minimum two, before we put it in the fireplace. The wood in the fireplace today came from our property when we cleared the driveway in the fall of 2014. When the sheds are full we will have eight cords. We use 2.5 to 3 cords per year.

This year consumption should be less as we are still burning a lot of debris from the deconstruction. We can burn those bits on these milder days but as the temperatures dip we will put a nice big hunk of Arbutus in the stove to keep us toasty.. We mostly burn fir here. But our property also has a nice supply of Arbutus, which is like gold on a cold February night.

We aren’t too fussy about keeping the stove going at night. Whoever is up first will light the fire. These mornings at 5 am it is around 15 C and an extra sweater keeps us warm til 9 when it makes it to 20C. We keep it around 20C all day….It’s a lot easier now with walls and windows, flooring

and a roof…..


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Cutting it close

First of all, I must say I’m quite disappointed no one commented on my awesome unintentional pun in the last posting…. Mom would have……..

Moving on….We had twenty nine people over last night to christen the new house. Twenty nine people or as Craig thought of it, 5000 pounds of weight …..testing out his new floor. Not a problem he assured me.. and it wasn’t. The house didn’t shake or even shimmy now that we are firmly secured to the rock….

The long difficult process for the foundations of both the house and deck is although visually unimpressive incredibly reassuring as we move forward with our life here. We have a lot of family and friends and I like to think we won’t be losing anyone off the cliff…especially ourselves!

Sure, it was cozy last night but who wants to go to a party where you have elbow room and a chair all to yourself. We played the stealing a gift game which went very well. Always interesting to see which gifts are fought over. The big hits of the night were a gift pack of homemade honey, candles and soap derived from our own island bees and a pair of cozy socks… I got a gorgeous candle and E got a new hatchet…..

Now that we have turned the corner on the reno we can start to think about Christmas and look forward to seeing our wee grand daughter. Sure there are lots of finishing touches needed on the house. Railings around the deck would be nice, again so we don’t unintentionally lose any guests off the cliff. But, we can get to the tasks as we see fit.. no urgency.

The last six windows arrived on Friday. Four installed that afternoon with the two large casement windows installed Saturday morning. Talk about

cutting it close