that an oxymoron

A year in review. In the same theme as my summary from previous years. Here we go. This is for my own records you can read or not.

Guest nights – We had the same number of guest nights as last year. This includes the nights when our friends took care of the house in March when we went to Mexico. We were very fortunate that our children were able to work from home and isolate before extended visits with us. Our granddaughter was here 22 nights and one son was here nineteen. Our daughter was here fourteen nights and another son eight. Normally our children would have other places to spend their vacations and, although we missed having our friends visit, we kinda didn’t hate the unexpected extended time with our adult children. I could call it a covid benefit.

Off Island – We were off island for nine days in total. Eight for the trip to Mexico which was supposed to be a fourteen day trip to Mexico which was supposed to be a twenty one day trip to Asia. Then we needed one night enroute to pick up the puppy. There were no Cardiologist visits to Vancouver. They were all held over the phone. Last year we were off island for sixteen nights. Fewer requirements to leave the island this year? Again, a covid benefit?

Health – We had plans to celebrate the 20th anniversary of E’s heart transplant in Singapore. We rebooked the celebration to a dinner in Mexico followed the next week with a family dinner in Vancouver. As it turned out we spent it alone on the island, quietly, and with great respect to the donor family. Our collective health continues to be excellent due, in no small part, to the safety this isolated island provides us. That same isolation also provides us a mental health cushion from the pandemic reality. A Covid benefit?

The Garden – The garden was a great success. Tons of tomatoes, peas, carrots, and pumpkins. I am enthused to plant even more vegies this year. We had fewer apples this year and no plums. We need to do better pruning next month. Fall canning provided a wide variety of food for the pantry. The antipasto is incredible. I would definitely do it again and next time try to grow vegies specifically for the recipe. Maybe in 2022.

The three hundred daffodil bulbs I planted last fall gave us a great spring garden. I want to grow more herbs on the deck and maybe more roses. A recommitment to growing more of our own food has prompted a renewed need for a greenhouse. A Covid benefit?

Population – We have increased our family by one dog. She has the same mother as our other dog and he has welcomed her with unexpected enthusiasm. Was feeling the need for an additional puppy a Covid benefit?

Water – We are full, full, full. For the first time ever. We have 7000 gallons up top, 1000 gallons in the garden, 350 gallons under the deck and 30 in the hot water tank. Baths are a welcome addition to our daily routine. I am currently lobbying for more tanks up top. Seems to me that if someone (E) eventually wants a hot tub he should be more agreeable to increasing our storage capacity.

Wildlife – No herring spawn this year. We had an incredible experience with a humpback whale who seemed to take up residence in front of our house during the spring. We had never really seen one here before. His daily visits lasted for weeks. Perhaps his comfort in our local waters was a result of the reduction in boat traffic across the closed border. Visiting humpback whales, a Covid benefit?

So far E isn’t able to take any of the approved vaccines so I can’t imagine our time spent here being much different for a good long while. I anticipate the year ahead to be very similar to the last one. We have a nice routine going on and, if anything, we are more prepared than we were last March. We will spend our time watching for whales, building a greenhouse, and growing lots of our own food. If anything, the benefit of the Covid pandemic response restrictions has been a reminder of how truly lucky we are to be living here together in these times. Covid benefit: is

that an oxymoron?

lost on me

One of the last times our kids were together on the island was Thanksgiving, 2018. E made the turkey, I made the pie. We spent the afternoon playing board games, with football on the TV.

Our Christmas traditions were pretty simple and also usually revolved around E making the turkey and me making the pie. Christmas morning breakfasts, for as long as I can remember, were croissants with homemade strawberry jam, fresh orange juice with champagne, coffees with Baileys. Board games with visiting extended family, rum and cokes and lots of food.

A favorite memory was the large extended family in the 90’s divided into two teams playing Pictionary in our living room on easels Papa had made the children for Christmas. There were endless loads of dishes running through the dishwasher long into the early hours of Boxing Day and leftovers for grazing all the following week. It is what Christmas was.

It goes without saying that this year is different. For all of us.

We are fortunate one son was able to work from the island and spend an extended time with us. There are no bakeries on the island, so breakfast croissants were out, but the island has an abundance of gorgeous, fresh eggs available. Eggs benedict seemed like the obvious choice. Activities will include checking the prawn traps and potty training the puppy. There will still be board games today, maybe some hockey, a whale or two and, as always, lots of food and drink.. We had a three hour zoom last night with all our kids and their partners and we played games on line. This isn’t what Christmas was.

It was pointed out to us by our friends John and Joy (and I am sure they won’t mind me mentioning) that the words to the popular Christmas song, written in 1943 during a time when families were separated, “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas “, are most appropriate again for us this year.

Once again as in olden days                                                                                                                                              Happy golden days of yore                                                                                                                                                Faithful friends who are dear to us                                                                                                                                     Will be near to us once more   

Some day soon we all will be together                                                                                                                                     If the fates allow                                                                                                                                                                          until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow                                                                                                              So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

However you are spending your day today remember it is just the way it is, this year. The eggs benedict were delicious, maybe a new tradition. Who knows you might find new traditions today too. As a point to mention, the board game we were playing that Thanksgiving was Pandemic. The irony is not

lost on me.

 

 

At our door

It seems inconceivable now, but there was a time, children, when the old guy and I had two papers delivered to us every day. One in the morning and one at night. We would read them both, cover to cover. At the end of the month the delivery boys (few girls) would go door to door to collect the money along their route in cash. They would have to come after dinner when the clients were home from work. In the dark! Twelve year olds all around the world were gainfully employed.

Christmas 1983 we were newlyweds living in a basement suite on 41st at Maple. As have most basement suites on the west side of Vancouver in December, the sidewalk access to the back door was unlit, wet, rainy and uninviting. It was 5 pm on December 24th and there was a knock at our door. The door led to a dark, damp miserable laundry room which stood between the creepy back yard and the door to our tiny basement suite. We heard the faint knock through the two doors and answered. Standing in the rain, barely visible was our twelve year old newspaper delivery boy. He stuck out his hand and gave E a hearty Merry Christmas as he personally delivered the news. E of course quickly scrambled through his pocket for his wallet and money for a Christmas tip.

It has been a nice weekend. I finished up some Christmas baking and E and our son started on the wood pile. Even with a really nice wood splitter E finds the chore hard on his back and is eternally grateful when our kids visit and offer to help. Of our four wood sheds, one large one is empty. All of those sheds need to be full to give us a two years supply of wood by the end of the winter. There is nothing worse than an empty wood shed and nothing more satisfying than four full ones.

The drier the wood the better it burns and on this island I find our neighbours like to have it two or three years old. It is also a safety net kind of thing. One year something might happen to stop us from adding to our stash it and it is reassuring to have plenty in reserve.

It is nice to know where our next firewood is coming from. We have two or three trees which are dead, dying, or in the way and we know they are the next to come down. Money in the bank so to speak.

Every winter the wind can also give us unexpected supplies. It has been crazy this week so the barge with the lumber for the greenhouse was cancelled. As with any project on this island you need to be flexible. Everything, and I mean everything, is weather dependent. The plan is for the barge to now come next Tuesday.

I have found, traditionally, the absolute worst weather we experience on this island is the week before Christmas and Easter time. We have had several miserable trips on the boat trying to get to Vancouver for Christmas to see family. I once asked John (he has been on this island since forever) what the worst storm he had ever seen here was and he said it was the one on Dec 20, 2018. Before that, it was December 15, 2006.

This Christmas there will be no to storms to worry about. If there is a bad one we are safe inside and aren’t going anywhere. There won’t even be a paper boy to knock

At our door

seemingly within reach

December 14th. Eleven days to Christmas in the god awful year of 2020 with a puppy at her feet, an old woman’s thoughts turn to the summer ahead and the bounty she will welcome from her garden.

The most frustrating part of living in the townhouse ten years ago, in our brief attempt at a simple life, was having no reason to pore through seed catalogues in the winter. No reason to plan a new garden bed, no reason, really, to dream. I hated it!

Every fall, I keep notes of the successes and failures of my summer’s garden. I make mention of ideas for the next year. Thoughts like “what about a Camelia next year?” and ” Plant more Daffodil bulbs!” have been mentioned as well as the more insistent “DO NOT PLANT TURNIP SEEDS” are found on the pages of my garden journal. Last summer, for the ninth year in a row, I wrote “less tomatoes and no more zucchini!”.

I ordered my seeds today. Lots and lots of seeds from a place in the Maritimes, Vesey’s. They are expensive but I have been unhappy with West Coast Seeds and miserably disappointed with Saltspring Island seeds in the past. It can’t hurt to give these guys a try and save half of them for the next year to mitigate the costs. There are five different types of tomatoes, some herbs, onions, carrots, cucumber, peppers, potatoes, and asparagus. There is lettuce and spinach, and peas. There are absolutely no zucchini.

I will try growing potatoes this year in the “potato bags” I have ordered on line. There is no room in the garden beds for them and it is always fun to try something new. I imagine you are asking yourselves how I am going to start all of these vegetables seeds in the spring with no greenhouse.

This brings me to E’s new winter project. As you remember, he built a greenhouse a few years ago which he wasn’t happy with and never really finished. Then a tree landed on it and well, yadda yadda yadda there is a beautifully poured concrete pad just begging to have a greenhouse on it. With all that is happening in the world it seems prudent to make sure we have plenty of fresh food coming from our garden again this summer. Fortunately, we are going to have all the water we will need to make sure the garden will be a success.

A lot of the supplies we need for a greenhouse are already here and waiting to be reused and the order is in for the other lumber we need. It isn’t urgent. The majority of the seeds don’t need to be planted until March but I would really like to try growing some lettuce in the winter.

I have always loved the idea of a garden bursting with beautiful flowers but, living here, I have grown to appreciate the joy found with the flavours and convenience of home grown vegetables. I expect to put more effort into the deck garden this summer also but that will be a conversation we can have in the spring.

The knowledge that I will actually have the water I need to make my garden plans come to fruition is exciting for me. It may be winter outside but, here in my chair with a nice glass of Pinot Noir in my hand, surrounded by seed catalogues and greenhouse plans, summer is inside and

seemingly within reach

Happy home, Shanty

It takes a long time to get over the loss of a pet. I remember thinking when my childhood dog died that I would never, ever own a dog again ‘cause it hurt too much when he died. I have since that day, in 1978, loved and lost eight dogs. Most of them Cocker Spaniels.

When E’s dog, Bacardi, died he wouldn’t consider replacing her for a very long time. Eventually he was ready and almost immediately we were able to adopt Piper. When Sami died two years ago I was heart broken and never imagined I could start again with any one new. Saying goodbye is just so hard. Why sign up for the heartache? But the heart heals.

This spring I felt I was ready but worried, briefly, that maybe I was getting too old. This of course was just nonsense. My Mom was seventy when she adopted a dog and when he died at thirteen she got another one and they also spent thirteen years together. Unless things go terribly wrong, I expect to live as long as my mother. I put my name on the waitlist with the same breeder as Piper’s family.

With covid loneliness, stay at home workers, and a non- existent pipeline of Mexican strays, there is a big demand for puppies in 2020. A big demand, limited supply, and the expected subsequent increase in cost. But still I was ready, even if we had to wait. We waited for six months and spent more than we have to spend but life is too short to spend it without a dog at your side.

This pandemic isn’t going anywhere soon. The first vaccine to roll out is not safe for heart transplant patients so that means we will be waiting til the second or third or ? We have nothing but time on our hands. Safe to say it is unlikely E and I will ever travel again. That is okay with us as we live in paradise. Our travel money is better spent on the warmth and love of another puppy.

We can grow a lot of our own food. Our pantry is full and I just bottled thirty more red and thirty more white. We can safely stay out of everyone’s way on our 2.5 acres until it is safe for life to resume to normal. We consider ourselves more than fortunate to be where we are while the world fights this fight. There was only one little thing we were missing. I needed a puppy for my lap.

But what to name it? We wanted a girl and the only girl name in a Mark Knopfler song is Juliet. Unless we gave up buying fuel for the boat to afford a little boy puppy to name Romeo, Juliet seemed an odd name to choose.

In my search for Mark Knopfler lyrics on the google they likened some of his music to sea shanties. I searched the meaning of shanty and one is, of course, a song sung while sailors worked and the other is a house built from borrowed or spare bits. If not our house, certainly our bunkie fits that description.

I introduce to you the latest addition to our

happy home, Shanty

2015 bears repeating

I don’t often reprint old blog postings but we have a lot of new readers these days and today, in particular this post from 2015 bears repeating.

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We have all had those nights. Lots of beer in the fridge and a group of new friends with no where pressing to be. They sit in a living room with the fire crackling, talking, reminiscing, telling stories.. Getting to know each other… Some times the stories prove how small the world can be with shared experiences, or unknown commonalities or sometimes the stories prompt even crazier coincidences.

We had a night like that in December of 1980. I was 23 and played on a women’s soccer team. E moved into a house in Point Grey with two of the women on the team. Our coach, newly arrived from Liverpool was with us that night. E was still unpacking his belongings. His entire personal worth at the time was a five poster king size water-bed, a stereo and 450 record albums sorted alphabetically in red milk crates. Jan was from Toronto, Brigitte was on a student visa from Ireland. There were five of us in the living room watching E set up his music.

When E has had a few to drink he likes to take his records out and play favorite songs from one album at a time, like a DJ. He had had a few to drink. The evening progressed, the fire burned, the music continued and the stories more nostalgic. Perhaps there was some smoke in the air.. Our coach spoke of how in his teens he was a bouncer at a club in Liverpool when the Beatles would play on a Saturday night. Talk continued of our favorite Beatle, our favorite song and of course, the night they first appeared on Ed Sullivan. That prompted a conversation about the Paul McCartney conspiracy. E pulled out Revolution 9 and played it backward. “turn me on dead man” and Strawberry Fields Forever where you can purportedly hear John Lennon say “I buried Paul”….. E took requests and played all of our favorites  Eventually all songs were listened to on most of the albums (E has them all) and we fell asleep around 5 AM dreaming of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds…

The next morning we stumbled into the kitchen, poured our coffees and turned on the radio to hear that John Lennon had been shot dead in front of the Dakota at 11:15 pm (8:15 our time) the night before.  

It still gives me chills….