Off The Grid

Living off the Grid on a west coast island


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Mom, miss you

“I told your neighbours what is going on with E”. Mom said to me as I came in at ten pm. Mom had been watching the kids all night while I had stayed with E at St. Paul’s. He had been in the hospital at that point for 16 days with a revolving front door at our house with E’s Dad, my Mom and my friends watching the kids.  “You did what?”  I was kinda short with her. “Why would you do that? They don’t even know us” “Nonsense,” she replied, as if she knew better, as she often did “You have lived next door to them for seven years!. They are lovely people and were very kind and concerned. They said if you needed anything they would be happy to help.”  She waved and headed out the door. I just turned around and groaned…

This week we had the pleasure of those same neighbours visit us here for a couple of nights. We were entertained by the eagles, and a dinner at our new island neighbours. We caught a few, not a lot of spot prawns, walked the island, drank several bottles of wine, laughed and spicy farkled. (it’s a game). All in all, a lovely visit with two people who did eventually become great friends, despite the antics of our teenagers and their friends.

While our friends were here, he and E finished splitting the wood we had waiting for the shed. All arbutus, pure gold.. It will be much appreciated during the winter of 2020.. We try to let our wood season two if not three years. They also stacked a lot of the lumber left over from the reno project. It will be dry and ready for us when we ever get to building a bunkie.  That is the last tarp gone off a property that was covered in them for eighteen months!!! whoo hooo!

She and I worked in the garden. She weeded until not a blade was out-of-place. I tended to the vegetables. Spinach, beets, peas, lettuce, and sunflowers are all planted. Tomatoes, zucchini and pumpkin are still in the greenhouse. She slaved, I puttered…. It was nice puttering in the garden with someone who loves it as much as I do….She painted me this lovely thank you card while she was here. Isn’t she talented?

So all in all it’s been a lovely week. We are so lucky to have friends who like to help out and participate (work on) the property. We have now known these two for twenty-six years, eighteen of which we have actually been on speaking terms! I have no idea why it took us so long to become friends but as Mother’s often are, mine was right. They are lovely people.

You were always right

Mom, miss you

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we moved here

When I lived in the city I never had to worry if water would return to the toilet after I flushed. When my wrists were at their worst, I would sometimes have three long hot baths per night to soak them….Three!!! The house was always warm and the required groceries I couldn’t find in my fridge were a four block drive away by car. Groceries by the way which I would unload in my garage, next to the laundry room which was next to the kitchen…

I should have explained yesterday why the weather is so important to us here on the island. Most of us have one if not two weather apps on our phone, along with navionics and the tide charts.

If there isn’t going to be sun, our solar power is affected. If there is going to be rain our wells and water tanks will benefit. If the wind is coming up, planned trips on the water for supplies could be delayed. Everything we do is predicated by the weather. Warm or cold, wet or dry, all of our daily decisions can’t be made until we see what is happening out the window.

It is incredibly frustrating that no one and I mean no one seems to be able to accurately anticipate what the weather in this little part of the world is going to be like, let alone confirm what our current conditions are.

We have commonly seen winds of 45 or 50 kph. But we have had nights when the house felt like it was about to blow into the ocean and yet accuweather said blowing 30 kph. One night we were warned by environment Canada that the winds could peak at 100 kph and it did blow like the dickens but we never knew how strong they were. It would have been interesting to know… ie.. So it’s at 80 kph that my patio chairs fly across the property… Good to know!!

Much like how our system conversations often start with septic issues, our other stories often begin with the relevant wind and weather conditions.

Although our new weather station won’t be able to predict the weather, it will be of interest to know how strong the winds were and if it really did rain more this winter than any other winter since

we moved here

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to be fun

The temperature listed at BH across the water from our house is currently 18 degrees. We have often argued that it is much warmer and drier at our house than listed at BH, our closest option on Accuweather. Rain would be predicted at BH, and we could see it raining there, but it was sunny here. I have long been curious about our actual annual rainfall. What are our annual temperature highs and lows? How fast is that wind actually blowing outside our window?

So we bought our own weather station and E installed it today. He drilled a hole in the perch rock and put the measurement instrument extending out off the rock on an aluminum bar.

img_2819 It will be interesting to watch the cumulative totals over the coming years. I think it will easily prove the point that our weather here is better than advertised. Case in point, the instrument has been up for an hour and although BH is listed as 18 degrees, it is 28.4 in the shade on our perch.

This is going

to be fun

 


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their supper here

We had five turkey vultures flying around in circles above us yesterday as we worked on the gutters. Turkey vultures don’t kill their own dinner and I couldn’t see why they were hanging around. There wasn’t any dead creature at the cut.  I did worry that they saw the scaffolding on our house and suspected there would soon be dinner near by.

E and I had picked up the continuous gutters by boat the day before. They weren’t heavy but awkward. Two of the pieces were 21 feet.  Yesterday we started installing the gutters early and finished around four. They are up. Today, E will do the downspouts.

 

The good news is, E didn’t fall off the scaffolding  and the turkey vultures didn’t get

their supper here

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feeder beside me

I keep a very loose record of what happens in the garden.. It’s basically a list of things to do. When I want to feel like I’ve accomplished something I cross the items off the list when they are finished just to feel like I am really getting somewhere.

We both spent the day in the garden today trying to get it into shape. E, kindly turned over the vegie beds which was a God send as it would have taken me several days to accomplish what he did in an hour. He blended in ten bags of three part manure which I brought from town.

Then he worked on the pond pump. It is solar-powered and hasn’t been working for a while. The fish are thriving and we have five frogs but unless you can hear the sound of water dripping through the pond pump it seems the birds don’t come to the garden in the droves they otherwise might do.

I potted up my tomatoes and again ended up with far too many…. I am seriously considering only planting tomatoes in the garden this summer and surviving next winter entirely on tomato sauce as I ended up with seventy-one plants.

Twelve each of Roma Paste, Alisa Craig, Ruths Perfect, Cosmonaut Volkov, Pollocks Medium and eleven of the Saltspring Sunrise. I am about a month behind in the usual schedule for the seed tomatoes so who knows if I will even get any.. but I expect by early June, these guys will be ready for the garden.

I took pictures of the garden but it will be prettier in a few days when everything blossoms. Right now it is just ready to burst.

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As I was coming back from the garden around four, the otter ran past me on the driveway.. He was heading to the water for dinner.

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I was reading over the garden journal entries for the last few years to see how many tomatoes I had planted in the past. I came across an entry for May 1, 2015 that the American goldfinch had returned to the garden. I had no sooner read that entry when one returned to the

feeder beside me.2018-05-03 18.33.08

 

 


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thinks holy shit

Life , as I see it, is all about perspective. For example, from my perspective, E has installed gutters on our previous two suburban homes so…. from my perspective,  I think this gutter job will be a cinch.

It was raining yesterday so E didn’t want to be up on the ladder taking gutter measurements. Instead,  we did six sets of income taxes.. That is a less than joyful way to spend a day. As executors of our Moms’ estates we had to do two sets of taxes for each of them plus our own… My head was ready to explode when we were done and I would have been grateful at that point to go outside, even in the rain, and weed or dig or scream.. anything, but fill in forms.. Instead we spent the evening playing bridge and had way too much fun.

Today, with the rain paused, we took the opportunity to get some accurate measurements for the gutter guy. We found him on the neighbouring island and he will deliver the gutters to the public dock as we load them onto the boat. They won’t be heavy, but they will be long and awkward. We should have them by the end of the week and then E can install them when the weather is better.

As I said, from my perspective, it shouldn’t be too hard. But, from E’s perspective, he looks down from the scaffolding and

thinks “holy shit!”


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a little harder

She came through the door of the Starbucks at 7 AM. I noticed her as I sat with E at the Davie Street coffee shop last month as we waited to go into the hospital for testing.

She was well dressed, if you can describe expensive coordinated jogging clothes as well dressed. Her dark hair, although slightly damp from her run, attractively accented her complexion with blonde highlights. Around her neck was a lime green lanyard attached to two cards and a fob. She was tall, beautiful, and in an understated manner, confident. Maybe thirty years old.

Trailing closely behind the jogger was a woman. She had been sitting on the sidewalk outside the Starbucks as we entered. I think she was a woman. It was hard to tell. She wore so many layers of coats. A dirty baseball hat barely covered the heaping mass of matted hair around her (?) face. On her back she carried a large filthy knapsack. A damp sleeping bag, recently rolled up, had been hurriedly attached to the bottom of the pack.

The two women walked up to the counter of the Starbucks. While the jogger stood patiently with the credit card on her lanyard displayed to the cashier, the obviously homeless woman slowly chose her breakfast. Minutes passed as careful attention was taken to the ingredients of the bottled smoothies. She finally chose three and then meticulously placed them into her knapsack. Along with the vegetable smoothies she chose a breakfast sandwich and one cake on a stick.

The smiling jogger passed her credit card on her lanyard to the cashier to pay for the strangers breakfast. She wished the woman a great day and they both left the Starbucks out different doors. I watched as one woman walked West on Davie in the rain, her pack a little heavier.. The other woman waited at the corner for the light to turn green. Her pace returned to a sprint as she headed East.

I consider myself to be a kind person. But it would never occur to me to stop in the middle of my morning run to buy a stranger breakfast. Well, first of all it would never occur to me to run in the morning or ever, unless I was being chased by a bear.

But you get what I am saying…, it would never occur to me to stop what I was doing to buy a stranger breakfast. Sometimes, when I leave the island I am reminded of the goodness which still exists out there in the real world and I am inspired to try

a little harder…

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to embrace rain

Hi, I know! Two blogs postings in two days, very impressive indeed. In truth, it is raining, again.. so I am taking a break from planting up the driveway rockery with Marion’s plant divisions because I confess, I am a fair weather gardener and it isn’t like I have nothing to do inside.

I turned to trying to find a proper place to put everything which we have so far brought down to the house. The studio and Anne’s garage are still full of unpacked boxes. I am getting to it! .. In the meantime, I found a large garbage bag tucked into the corner of the guest room closet.  The bag was full of our Christmas wrapping paper, a few ungifted presents and the family Christmas stockings. Either, I am a tad late for last year or really early for next year.

With the fascia now installed we are in the process of ordering our gutters and they should be here by the end of the week. E has installed gutters on our two previous houses, so we aren’t anticipating a difficult job.

With all of our well water issues this spring, and the addition of our gorgeous new roof we have now decided to add a rain catchment system to the current water system. Three of the four new gutter down spouts will feed into a 500 gallon tank under the deck. Then, it will automatically be pumped up to our regular tanks with a 120 volt transfer pump. It will not replace but enhance the current system. With our new roof we figure we should be able to capture maybe twenty thousand gallons of free water.

Finally, a reason

to embrace rain

gutters

 


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I met her

I was asked to be there at 6:45 AM. I dawdled at Starbucks grabbing a morning coffee and I was still at their door at 6:30 AM.

I had agreed to go to Vancouver to have dinner with nine women with whom I started kindergarten, fifty-six years ago. We try to get together once or twice a year.. Sometimes a couple of years pass. But one of us was in town briefly from Australia at the same time as another from the States, so I joined them. Takes a lot for me to leave the island and these women are important to me.

Back on the island Craig was completing the fascia. Precarious work hanging over the edge of the cliff.

and E was  building more  rails, more stairs and a framework to hang the gate to the deck.img_2775-1

There are endless details to finish the project. I am sure we will still be at it for years…

When I came back to the island I brought a new (to me) truck. It was my son’s, not suitable for a baby seat but very suitable as an island vehicle. We barged it over yesterday. Before I put it on the barge, I filled it with different types of soil, manure, mulch and plants. Lots and lots of plant divisions from my friend’s garden. Thank you Marion!!! Any opportunity to bring heavy things over to the island without having to load them on and off the boat its a big bonus. I took full advantage.

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Today, I unloaded all the soil and carried it to the rockeries where it is desperately needed. The garden up top was in desperate need of my attention so I was up there weeding at 8 AM.  I can say now the flower growing portion of the garden now looks lovely. The vegetable growing portion is a mess, but there is no rush. I won’t be planting much other than the lettuce and peas which are already planted, until the end of May.

The greenhouse temperature was 40 degrees when I came down to the house mid afternoon with a tired back.

As I was going to be in town seeing my friends, I offered to stay on a little longer to help out with babysitting my granddaughter while her parents went to work. It goes without saying that we find it hard to be so far from her. It’s been twenty-six years since I had a wee baby all to myself and I was pretty excited. I couldn’t wait until 6:45 in the morning. I was knocking on their door at 6:30!!!

Hours and hours of singing songs, reading books, mushy yammy kisses interspersed with walks to the park and spontaneous cuddles. Honestly, I thought I loved my kids as much as a person could love another, and then

I met her.

 


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was at work

She answered the knock at the door. It was 11 am.

The baby fresh from her nap happily played behind her on the floor of the family room. One of her brothers was at pre-school and would need to be picked up at noon. She would pick him up in the family’s car using the driver’s license the family paid for her to get. Her other brother was in grade two at the french immersion school on the other side of town. His mother will pick him up on her way home from work.

Next to her, in the living room behind the glass door, the families new camera sat on the coffee table. Their new IBM computer on the desk behind the couch.

She had arrived the year before from the Philippines. Hired by the family to take care of their three children while both parents worked. Both of them often had to leave the house before six am for work.. Too early, to take the children to daycare and the costs of a live in nanny much less than full-time daycare for three children aged 2,4 and 7.

She opened the door. Standing before her were two intimidating middle-aged men in suits and ties. They showed no ID. She didn’t know she could ask for it. Her nanny training prepared her for medical emergencies and strangers in the park. These men scared her as they pushed their way into the house.

One man walked past the baby on the floor to look around the living room while the other distracted her with his words. He told her they were from child services and her employers had called them because they suspected she was abusing their children. These men didn’t stay long, maybe fifteen minutes, a lifetime. They had seen all they needed. They had seen what was worth stealing. They left her, hysterical, clutching the baby and sobbing.

Seemingly betrayed by the employers whom she had thought liked her. In fact, they had seemed to embrace her warmly into their family. She was desperate with thoughts that she would be deported in disgrace. Her family shamed. What would become of her? She had done nothing wrong!!!

It was 3:15 pm and I walked in the door with my eldest son laughing and happy. My four-year old and two-year old were playing together on the floor of the family room. My nanny was in the living room, eyes red and puffy… sniffling .. “Whatever is wrong?” I asked. Only a family death could cause such sadness.. How can I help? What is it? …

She replied “You don’t know?” as she glared at me with suspicious eyes. “No, of course not. Tell me” I begged.

So she told me the story. I had never heard of such a thing, and got on the phone immediately to the police. The first officer I spoke with told me that she should have asked for ID. Very helpful…(not). I asked to speak to someone more helpful. The next officer explained that even if someone, because it sure as hell wasn’t us,  had reported her for suspected abuse. A) They would have notified us and B) Child services would have visited when we were there.

I got off the phone and explained the procedures to my nanny but she could not stop crying and I could not convince her that I wasn’t in some way involved. So I phoned the police again and begged for a sergeant to come and check out my house and talk to my nanny. I also got on the phone and ordered an alarm system to be installed in our house the next day.

That evening when E was home, the sergeant from the local police arrived in full uniform and sat down and explained everything to us again. Eventually we got her calmed down and convinced that we trust her and the kids adored her…

It was definitely one of the most difficult days of being a mother who worked fulltime outside of the house. Over seven years we had three full-time Nanny’s. This story is about the one who stayed with us for four years. We were very fortunate to have such great care for our children when we had to be at work. I have complete empathy for our kids now as they try to sort out babysitting for our granddaughter. It is a busy busy time.

Two weeks after these mysterious two men visited our house, a neighbouring house was completely emptied with all furniture and valuables loaded into a moving van parked in the attached garage during the day while the family

was at work.

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