Off The Grid

Living off the Grid on a west coast island


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rewarding when solved

Truck kinda running, laundry awesome, yesterday E dealt with our third problem. We have had no water pumping into our well for probably weeks.

Armed with his new multi meter, E tested the wiring at the top of the control box in the top of the well housing. There was a bad reading which indicated a problem with one of the wires on the well pump. This pump is only six years old and should last twenty five years.

Dave and Brad came over to help him pull the pump. It is 275 feet deep so they attached one end to the truck and drove the truck a ways down our lane…. With all of the piping now stretched along our driveway E could access the pump. Did I mention it was pissing rain…. Dave and Brad had places to go and E was confident he could finish the job alone.

He couldn’t see anything wrong so he tested the wires at the top of the pump and the readings were basically the same  so that meant the wires all the way down the well were good.. But still confusing why the pump wasn’t working.

So he checked his readings in the manual and it insisted there is something wrong with the wiring. So he opened up the pump itself and found a broken wire within the pump. It was right at the top of the pump casing. Six years of slow rubbing every time the pump had turned on had caused the wire to wear through..

After six hours of working in the pouring rain and mud, E was pretty thrilled he at least found the problem.. Fixing it wasn’t difficult. He soldered the wire back together and heat shrunk the connection.. and then wrapped the shit out of it in electrical tape…

He started at nine in the morning and my daughter and I helped him drop the pump back in the well just before dark…. A long and certainly frustrating day for E, but as with all of the problems on this island, certainly on this property, very

rewarding when solved.


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but first traffic

They take their traffic reporting very seriously in the big city.. As we were about to disembark from the ferry in Tsawwassen last week they announced that the weather was wreaking havoc on the roads ahead. We tuned to the all news radio station for an accurate traffic report and they advised that there were white out conditions on the highway, dangerous. A snow storm had hit hard south of the tunnel and the 99 was a nightmare. jackknifed semi, the overpass closed, Arthur Drive closed.. We opted for the back roads through the farms, took us an hour and a half to get to the pub, usually a 15 minute drive.

We had tried to leave the island before the snow hit, and our sequined finery and gold lam’e bib and tucker were all packed and loaded into the truck. Then the engine died and we had to wait for a ride from my sister-in-law…. By the time we were on the water it was blizzardy and just plain freezing…. We were pretty happy to be heading to the desert.

We left behind a broken truck, a dead washing machine and a broken well water pump. We managed to forget about them while we had four days of hilarity and childishness…. But we are back to reality.

Our friends puttered with the truck while we were gone and were able to get it moving.. It’s going to take some parts and thought and work to keep it moving but not first. First we had to get the new washing machine installed.

It is the most basic of machines, on-off, hot-cold. We don’t need fancy settings. No delicate cycle. I’m sixty, I have no delicates. E installed it yesterday and it works like a hot damn…

E bought a new meter in town to check the wiring on the well pump.. We bought this pump and installed it the first spring we were here, 2012. It should last twenty years. One of the tests came back with a flaw so two of our friends have come over this morning to help E pull the pump (300 feet) and see if he can find and fix the wiring problem. Then we can get back to our other chores.

Living here, we don’t need the all news radio station very often. Not much going on, few traffic problems. But a couple of weeks ago, the phone rang at 2 AM. My sister living 7 hours ahead on the east coast was calling to tell me there was a Tsunami warning for our area and to get to higher ground. We got up and turned on the radio. Not a time for rock & roll we tuned to the all news radio station. We heard the reporter announce…

“And now for the news. An earthquake has hit off Alaska and there is a Tsunami warning for the entire West Coast……………………

But first traffic”

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has to supervise

Just because, to live on this island successfully requires an affinity for problem solving, doesn’t mean we are looking for more!

In fact when everything is working correctly we are quite comfortable taking the day off with a good book and a glass of wine.

Much as the amount of “stuff” we have to carry back from town is directly related to how high the tide is (steep boat ramp), the propensity for functioning things to stop working increases when you have company coming or need to leave the island for a few days/weeks.

We can’t wash our clothes before packing the night before a trip, especially in the winter. We have no electric dryer so clothes must be washed a few days ahead and hung inside to dry. I started yesterday. Not a big job. My wardrobe consists of horrid jeans,  work jeans, better jeans and black jeans. Shirts range from flannel with rips to T-shirts with holes. But, I thought I would make the effort none the less. Once all of the clothes (there is no point in separating) were soaked with water, the washing machine decided to stop working. After turning it upside down and taking it apart piece by piece E declared it dead, mort, a goner, wash no more………E carried everything in garbage bags up to our neighbours (thank you!) and we ordered a new one. It will be here next week. sigh.

While he was in the bathroom/laundry/utility room he decided to turn on the remote start to pump water from the well to our tanks. That’s when he discovered our pump isn’t working. Probably hasn’t for a few days. He went up the hill to check the tanks.. We are almost out of water.  sigh. We are going to have to pull the well pump and see if it’s plugged.

My role, as I see it in the relationship is to stay out-of-the-way while he solves system problems while toiling away at all of the other chores that need doing. Sami, however, considers his input valuable and always

has to supervise


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Any where else…

Someone, who shall remain nameless, but it wasn’t E, had the brain dead idea to let the fire go out overnight so we could empty the ashes.. The firebox was getting pretty full, having been last emptied Dec 27. Last night was the coldest night of the winter.. What was she who remains nameless thinking???

I got up at six and it was -2 C outside and 10 degrees inside…

Yesterday, it snowed here for the first time this winter. So close to sea level, we had only a couple of inches but the higher end of the island had maybe double that. Heading to coffee at the Y’s we had to go back for our chain saw as there was a tree down blocking our lane and another across the road at the bottom of dead truck hill.

Our project this week is to take everything out of the living room. Everything! And pile it into the two bedrooms. Craig is coming in on the weekend to sand and give a final stain to all of the wood interior. That will be it, the interior pretty much done. One year to the date of starting.

This is our sixth winter here and we have only left the island a couple of days at a time, to see family. But, this weekend we are taking a few days to wander the streets of Nevada, take in a hockey game, a few shows and some sunshine while Craig does his thing. When we are back, we will turn our attention to finishing the deck. We won’t be going anywhere again, but to visit family, for a long time.

I cannot tell you how fun it was, yesterday for E on a cold crisp morning to have an excuse to power up the chain saw. So much more fun for him than city living …once the interior is stained, why would we go

any where else?


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sized freezer helped

Back in the day, the powers that be banned cyclamates because apparently they weren’t good for us or rats. Cancer potential or some such thing. Woodward’s, our go to store for everything from groceries to socks didn’t dispose of their cyclamate filled soda pop. They put them on sale twelve for $1.49 along with the similarly priced cans of cyclamate soaked fruit.

At the time, as a treat, my brother, sister and I were allowed one pop and one bag of potato chips on a Saturday night to eat while we watched Gilligan’s Island. No McDonald’s, no Friday night pizza, no Costco muffins, one bag of chips and one pop, once a week. When they went on sale at Woodward’s, Mom bought every can of pop and fruit in the store. Our kitchen cupboards were stacked floor to ceiling with root beer and canned peaches.

When we were raising our kids, they fared a little better than I did for food but our shopping list didn’t ever consist of very fancy cuts of meat. I could have written the book, one hundred ways to cook ground beef using nothing but a casserole dish and a tin of soup. No one suffered, we ate pretty well and it was “good enough”.

But now that we have less mouths to feed and more than two cents to our name,  we thought we would like to explore shopping for meat direct from the farmers. Years ago we were able to get a half a lamb from the island farm and it was delicious. But it filled our tiny wee freezer full and that eliminated any other freezing options for the entire winter.

Today, a quarter pig arrived through Craig’s connection on the big island. Butchered this week and straight into our new electric freezer. Knew to this, I had no idea how much space the meat would take, what types of meat we would get and really anything else about the process. I was mortified a tongue would show up. We are city folk just trying to eat better quality meat.

I know a few of my readers raise their own meat and don’t need to be hearing anything from me but for the rest of my friends who follow along and know as little we did.

We ordered one-quarter pig. It wasn’t cheap. Craig figures next time he will save money and do the butchering himself.. He likes to???????????

We traded our short ribs for extra bacon…

  • 5 packs of bacon totalling 3.32 pounds
  • 6 packs of Pork Stew totalling 3.32 pounds (great for E’s famous sweet and sour pork
  • 1 leg roast … 3.20 pounds
  • 1 shoulder roast…  3.20 pounds
  • 1 should steak..   2 pounds
  • 5 packs of bone in loin chops totalling 6.7 pounds

Yesterday, I had made as much room in the freezer as possible then checked with family and friends to reserve space in their city freezers if it was necessary. I vacuum sealed the newly arrived packages of meat with my handy-dandy food saver bought for just this kind of merriment and stacked the sealed gems with great skill and care.

Much like winning a game of tetris, it all fit. Having a decent

sized freezer helped


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A perch also

I saw a new resident arriving at the dock a few of years ago with a small bag of bird seed, maybe the size of a bag potato chips. I was standing with Kathy at the time, a friend who also enjoys feeding the birds. We looked at each other and simultaneously said “he’s going to need more seed”

I often refer to our house as the perch. I go through a lot of seed (five types) to encourage birds to the house for my daily entertainment. The current layout of the deck area is proving difficult to find a good place to hang feeders. I get a lot of disapproving looks from the men around here when the birds poop on the beautiful new wood sills and decking.

We also have lots of birds around the house who require no involvement from me. I enjoy their antics also, but grow nervous when the eagle takes too much interest in a lone duck. I can handle watching the eagle eating a fish but not a duck. I have my limits.

But it seems we have a new guest. I imagine it’s a compliment that he/she has decided the best view of the water is from the top of our roof.

It seems he thinks of my house as

a perch also


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life for you

We could never afford a waterfront home on one of the more civilized local islands. The ones with ferries or even those with power but no ferry. The land prices on this island reflect the inconvenience of living without simple comforts like electric power and hydro and drive to the door transportation.

The money we saved buying here, we could spend on systems which provide all the comforts we could want. We have a good solid boat and don’t miss lining up for ferries. Added bonus..PRIVACY!

Great day today if you live off grid and collect your power from the sunshine.

I have selective memory with regard to the weather and I easily forgot the last six weeks of rain when I saw the accumulation of power on the solar charge controller after just one day of brilliant sunshine. We collected 3.7 kWH’s today. The most we ever collected on our old system on a hot day in August was 1.7 kWH

We spent a lot of money on the new system and installed it during the winter when the power supply was at its least. I feel it’s safe to say we have survived the worst of the dark days with little need for the generator.. Well, to be honest we used the generator a fair bit for the power tools we needed for the reno, but next winter it won’t be necessary at all.

We installed an electric fridge on Thanksgiving, the same day as we switched over our propane tanks. Two full forty pound tanks hooked up on Oct. 9th  and they lasted 120 days. Normally, we would have had to change the tanks after 53 days.

We are installing a range boiler on our airtight wood stove to collect hot water by next winter so that will further reduce the demand for propane, leaving us with just the needs of the propane stove.

We still need a solar hot water panel to attach to the range boiler for the summer when the stove isn’t going. Fridge and hot water supported entirely by sunshine and the wood stove… Free !!!.. Be interesting to see how quickly we pay for the system with our propane savings… five years????

Sure, I am glossing over how difficult it is to live here.. It is not for the faint of heart. At any given point ones septic system isn’t working, the inverter is broken or the truck doors have fallen off.. If we are lucky,  all three won’t happen at once.

We love this life. Our friends, obviously love the life. But, honestly some who buy here,  don’t last….This island is filled with problem solvers, the lifestyle demands it….if you don’t like to solve problems or occasional drive down the road with one battery at your feet in the passenger seat hooked up by cables to the battery under the open hood of the truck, cause it’s the only way to make the truck move with the alternator broken……… it probably isn’t the

life for you.

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left to do

The weather has been good this week. Sure, it hasn’t been Jan good (my friend currently basking in southern sun) but it has been good enough for us to get outside and get some work done in the yard. E pruned the apple trees and I hit the rose bushes.

I normally prune my roses when the forsythia is in bloom but they were neglected last year. This year I showed no mercy. There is a saying, that you can’t prune a rose too much and I took that to heart. Hopefully, they will thrive with my severity.

I also began to weed and clean up the mess in the garden. It’s a big job and I didn’t make a dent in the mess but it sure felt good to be up there puttering about.  My plan is to move everything possibly deer resistant down to the driveway rockeries and thin the rest of the perennials. They are out of control.

The fish in the garden pond are large and very happy. Apparently, they don’t need a lot of attention. The perfect pets.

We went to town yesterday. Waters were flat calm and the trip uneventful. But, we were, as usual exhausted when we got back. Don’t tell anyone but we were in bed at 8 and we slept 12 hours!!!!!!!!! My only excuse is that we must still be recovering from the plague. The dog was thrilled with our apparent conversion to his sleep schedule.

I have to admit our work ethic has taken a hit with the increased comfort of living in a somewhat finished home. Our days are filled with music as E plays with his new sound system more than grouting tile or sanding drywall.

But I hadn’t seen the outside of the house from the water since probably September. We came through the rapids rather than the narrows yesterday to get a picture of the house with the windows and the deck as it stands so far. There is a lot still

left to do


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are you serious?

I would have been murdered by both E and Craig if I had bought items for the finished house before it was, you know, finished. It was hard enough climbing over all of the debris and construction materials, let alone if we all had to climb over planters and new Adirondack chairs… so I didn’t.. best to keep the peace.

Craig has been here the last few days finishing up the trim. I now have a live edge breakfast bar and I am more than pleased to say that essentially the interior of the house is finished.. If by interior we don’t include the window ledge in the master and the baseboards in the bathroom.. But let’s be real, on this island if you are building a house and you are down to the last .5% you can say you are pretty much finished..Papa didn’t put his flooring down for ten years after he “finished” the house.

There is a fair bit to do outside, gutters, railing, a bit of fascia.. couple of posts… but it seems to be that they aren’t complicated jobs and if we get any kind of break in this relentless rain, they will be easily accomplished. Only took a year!! Ha ha…

It would completely defeat the point of living here if all of the work was finished and there were no jobs to do around the property.. We can’t possibly drink and eat any more hours in the day than we already do… !

But we are thrilled. It seems like only yesterday, we were catching four mice a night in the kitchen and living in a 12X12 room behind a plastic sheet. It was only four months behind the sheet? seemed like longer 🙂 maybe cause we didn’t have a roof for three more or windows for four more after that!!! …..ahhh good times..

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But what is life, if it is so boring that at the end of the day there are no stories to tell. We have been able to provide the island with something to talk about at coffee shop.. But no more.. well .. soon no more.

We must be nearing the end. I felt confident enough today to order the patio furniture with E and Craig in the same room and neither of them gave me that look… you know the look… like patio furniture, really??

are you serious???


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fridge look tiled

Years ago E’s mother bought a can of brown paint for a small project. Not one to waste anything, she ended up painting every available surface brown until the paint was gone. We came over one day and even the fireplace had been painted.

Under the category of what were we thinking? We put a window behind the fireplace.

I can tell you what I was thinking. How hot could it get? I want as much of a view as possible. No, I don’t want to put the fireplace behind the seating. I want to be able to look at the view and the water.. I want it all. No, I am not listening to everyone’s advice. It will be fine. Let’s just try it. So we did.

We put a lovely window behind the fireplace on December 16th. Four weeks later E replaced the shattered glass with a beautiful tiled wall. sigh.. Oh well… I can still look at the fireplace along with the view… just not as much as before.

Last spring when this all began, Craig dug a really deep hole and poured a ton of concrete under the corner of the house where the fireplace sits. The added shear wall from the newly tiled area is a bonus. That corner of the house is the strength of our perch… We are now firmly attached.

Craig is finishing, as he says, the last 5% of the interior of the house.. The trim.. I imagine this is the fun part for him where he gets to use his artistic talents. Dreary jobs like digging trenches for foundations are long over.

E and I are pretty flexible and have no preconceived ideas. As Craig moves from task to task, the three of us decide on things like the height of baseboards, the shape of door trims etc … We had leftover back splash tile and like E’s mother I hate to see anything go to waste. So I asked that we incorporate it into the living room baseboards. This is what Craig came up with… When all of the trim is done, it will all be stained to match the fir posts and beams.

Today, E is painting the trim around the windows black, to frame the view.

:Craig is creating a breakfast bar to attach to the kitchen island. I told him how high I wanted it, how I see it being used etc. and then left it up to him. There are some interesting pieces of wood milled and sitting in my hallway and I am pretty excited to see what he has in mind.

We still have some back splash tile left over. Maybe I could tile a  coffee table top or what about the front of the fridge?  How would the

fridge look tiled?