Off The Grid

Living off the Grid on a west coast island


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have all shrunk

Long ago, we had to accept an “island time” schedule and accept that things don’t happen like they might in the city. Within reason I can accept that. After all we aren’t going anywhere. We are dry and warm and have lots of jobs to keep us busy.

The trials and tribulations of building on an island continue. Murray was telling me today they ordered a new appliance in the city and the store not only will deliver it to their door but takes the old one away. sigh… I’m envious of the convenience.

We are still missing eight windows. One (the bathroom), is not “late”. It is awaiting a stained glass insert which I haven’t finalized yet. The other seven, somehow never made the shipment of windows two months ago.

Last month we received an email that our remaining window order was ready. When Craig went to get it last week, the store could only find three of them… really? How far can windows go? The two pieces of glass for the exterior doors and one small kitchen window was ready. On the up side, Tom was able to finish our exterior doors this weekend with the available glass. The living room door to the deck should be able to be installed this week.

It took easily as long to complete our order for interior doors from an altogether different store..The inverter, which we paid for over night delivery from a third store,

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my little squirrel nodded off for a nap at the entry to his little home

to replace the broken new inverter to replace the working old inverter is still undelivered.. It’s been four weeks. Luckily the local retail outlet gave us one to use in the meantime.

E brings down a few boxes at a time from the studio for me to empty and put away. We have found most of our clothes, but still no Scotch. E spent the day putting door handles on cabinets and generally puttering away at our long list of things to do.. Very little is actually completely finished.. Everything needs just a little bit of work to finish.. Almost done is a state I can live with and keeps E busy…

E hung the shelves in closets this afternoon. I have started to hang clothes brought down from the studio. I do not understand why all of my clothes up in the studio, although wrapped safe and dry for the last year seem to

have all shrunk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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stick with me

Overheard a thirtyish woman sadly say to a similarly aged man on the ferry to Vancouver this week, “I think it’s time I rehome my pretend dog”

Ok, let’s break this down. The woman seems to have grown tired of her pretend dog but feels concerned enough about its welfare that she accepts her responsibility to find the dog a new pretend home.. Presumably, one where it will have the illusion of happiness. Her friend, I think his name was Gord, an obviously good friend, to his credit, nodded sympathetically.

When you find good solid friends like Gord, it’s important to hold on to them. Those friends that are spoken about in social media memes. Those now clichéd references are the ones I’m talking about. You know who I’m talking about. The friends who you don’t  speak to everyday but still seem to know that you are thinking about them. Sometimes, years can pass between visits but still the bond remains. I have always been fortunate in this regard.

Mom used to tell me.. Forgive your friends three faults and hope they forgive at least three of yours. For example.. say a friend is always, always late for social engagements. Accept that they will be late, plan accordingly and embrace all of their other fine qualities.

I went to Vancouver this week to have dinner with a group of  friends who have been forgiving my faults since 1962. I have written about these women before. (friends)..

We were missing three. One recovering from surgery and one who lives in Australia and only makes it occasionally. Our third missing friend, died this month. I had written about her before. Wendy  As we stood together with our champagne in a beautiful new home overlooking the Vancouver nightscape we toasted to Wendy and to her friendship and to our good fortune to have had her and each other in our lives… We do not take our privilege lightly.

Friends come and go.. and although I have yet to burden a friend with worries about my pretend pets I do accept that friendship with me is not the easiest relationship. I am so grateful to you who

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stick with me

 


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stach of Scotch

Last October we stocked the pantry ready for the winter ahead. Then, we rented out our house for a few months and everything I had in the pantry was packed, moved up to the studio and forgotten about. Our clothes went up there as well as all of my books and quilting supplies etc.

With, what seems like a wink of an eye, it is one year later and we are bringing the boxes down from the studio and unpacking them. I can only empty a few at a time as I have to find a place to put everything. Our house is after all still unfinished and not really that much bigger… Although we have higher ceilings and walls covered in windows, those features don’t translate into a lot of additional cupboard space.

Most of the wine has come down. The pantry items, books and crafting supplies were found this morning. With such a dismal production from my vegetable garden this summer I was more than pleased to open up a bin full of canned tomatoes, chutney, pear jam and green tomato relish… Our kitchen cupboards are stocked!

When we packed up our belongings last fall we thought it would be for two months. We kept out a few shirts, a couple of pairs of jeans.. a sweater or two.. Everything else went into garbage bags up in the studio. Over the summer I have been buying clothes as I need them. Honestly, most of what I have left is either stained, faded or shredded. Alison commented that my work jeans look like the expensive fancy jeans they are selling in the stores. You know the ones that have worn through knee caps.. Why anyone would buy a pair of jeans with the tears already in them absolutely defeats me but there you go… we are all different…

E put ceilings in the closets yesterday and today hung the shelves and clothes rod.. (clothes rod? is that the word????) .. He came into the kitchen and pronounced “there you go… start hanging… ” Well, I would if I had anything to hang.. We haven’t found the garbage bags of clothes yet…. More importantly, we haven’t yet

found the stach of Scotch

Squirrel stole my tissue paper but can’t get it into his nest…

 

 


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started to read

With me reading in front of the fire, a roof over my head and E, relaxing while he watches hockey on TV, we can consider the reno well under control…  I thought we could have an update on the nature channel facet of our life here. There is after all,  a life here that doesn’t involve barges, lumber and septic systems.

We missed a lot of the nature show last year with our extended vacation at the south end followed by our return to our house wrapped in plastic and plywood. We are looking forward to catching up this winter with the goings on outside our window.

In addition to the squirrel and deer who reside at my back door, I have a resident seal in front of me along with the family of eagles who live next door. The sea lions have begun to swim past us in growing numbers. Sure, its only a few now but I have every confidence that this winter we will be well entertained. With any luck you will grow tired of me talking about rafting sea lions and pods of Orca.

The next door eagle, who last we saw in July fishing on the rock below us, returned last weekend.DSCN1371

There are five eagle nests on the island. The perimeters of the island are well and truly defended when the eagles stand at their posts watching the comings and goings in the water.. The tallest trees at each corner of the island host an eagle on watch throughout October to July each year. In the summers,  the eagle’s head to the rivers to hunt for spawning salmon.

Our friend Dave keeps track of the dates year by year when the animals do their thing. He has a record of a variety of events. He has the dates over the years when, he first heard the frogs in the pond (they are silent in the winter) , when the hummingbirds returned and when the eagles came back. I asked him if the return of our neighbour last weekend was a usual date.. He responded with his records..

Eagles return to the island

  • 2006   October 6
  • 2007    ?
  • 2008    October 18
  • 2009    October 10
  • 2010    October 2
  • 2011    October 28
  • 2012    October 19
  • 2013    October 13
  • 2014    October 8
  • 2015    ?
  • 2016    October 15
  • 2017    October 9

I haven’t read a book since last November. If I was left unsupervised I would read all day every day and virtually accomplish nothing else. If I have other pressing matters which I have had since February.. I just can’t pick up a book.. My daughter, like my Mother before us, is very much like me and when she comes here it is her time to read. Last spring she was here 7 days and read five books.

This week she brought the new Louise Penny book, Glass Houses with her. Proving that I am so comfortable with how the reno is progressing…. I picked up the book and have

started to read

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simple, living here

We had a very successful Thanksgiving.

Much to be grateful for…To have our kids together in one place is a rare event. Aside from us standing together at the bedside of our new granddaughter for 30 minutes this summer, we hadn’t been together as a unit since our family vacation in January..  The whole weekend was made perfect with the timing of our first family dinner in our new home and the first visit of our wee girl to the island…or as her mother will recall it..three days of trying to wrestle the baby out of my arms…sigh..I’m in love…

On to more off grid type topics…

With the successful installation of our new inverter and the optimum functioning of our upgraded utilities we have oodles of power. Admittedly oodles is not the correct term. For you who want the technical term, Yesterday on a fairly cloudy October day we brought in 4 KWH of power to the bank. The fridge needs 800 watts for a 24 hour period.. We felt confident to plug-in our new fridge.

Our sons helped E bring the fridge down to the house. To be accurate, ours sons carried the fridge down the driveway and E held on to a corner of it for moral support. The fridge is a unique product. Specifically this one  Solar fridge. It is huge.

Part of the reason for its size is the insulation required for an off grid 24 volt fridge. Also, the internal space is double that of our other fridge. Nothing wrong with our other fridge. But with this one, I will be able to fill it with a trip to Costco and never have to go to town again this winter, which is after all, my ultimate goal in life. We sold our other fridge to island friends who have been using coolers and ice blocks.

So we plugged it in. Our new fancy expensive fridge filled with turkey leftovers and beer. And nothing. Not a shiver, not a brrr, nothing. At midnight that night, E and the boys were humming and hawing and rewiring.. our turkey and beer were moved to our neighbours fridge for safe keeping.

The next morning, still not so much as a cool draft from our new expensive fridge. So we spent the rest of the weekend with our beer in a cooler on the porch while we searched the google on what could possibly be wrong.

E, an accountant by trade has had to learn propane gas and solar panel installation among countless other skills… in order for me to live here. (Happy wife, happy life) He hadn’t yet tackled refrigeration installation..Living here you have to figure things out for yourself and if you can’t and your friends can’t, you go back to your drawing board.. I never worry because it always comes to him eventually. My job, as I saw it was to stay out of the way and hold the baby.

E took most of our family back to the ferry today. Our daughter is staying on to read and generally take a much needed break from her job in the downtown east side.. When E got back from town he tried one more thing.. one last idea.. and brrrrrrr it started.. the fridge came alive.. it is happy and chugging along content with the knowledge it will be well loved and filled to the brim.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, nothing is

simple…. living here


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be done today

Nothing, and I mean nothing ever goes according to plan on this island… the inverter never showed up… We paid extra for overnight shipping from the manufacturer on warranty last Wednesday (nine days ago). It is still sitting in the Vancouver Customs clearing station with some sort of complication.. In desperation, E asked our retail supply company if they could intervene or know of what the problem could be…. They didn’t/couldn’t but were happy to…  (try to keep up) ….give us a new one until the other new one comes to replace the first new one that came to replace the old one, but didn’t work…

E went to town this morning to pick it up…

We are happy to go to bed pretty early when we have no power to turn on lights. But last night at the end of the day as we tried to make dinner and have a hot shower not only did we run out of propane, but we ran out of diesel too. At the exact same moment!!!!! sigh…. Don’t you hate it when all of the equipment that allows you to live like you are on the grid while living off the grid is unavailable and you have six guests (one of whom is 5 weeks old)  arriving for the weekend.

E took the empty propane and diesel tanks with him…

Normally, especially at this time of year, we would never be so low on fuels that we would run out but we have been kind of preoccupied with runs to town for urgent reno materials to monitor our supplies like we normally would do… This time of year we usually top everything up to get us through the winter. We forgot.

E got back at four pm with the new inverter, 80 lbs of propane, four jugs of diesel and a can of black paint for the window seat.

He took the old new inverter off of the panel and hooked up the newest inverter. The eight new solar panels he had installed on the new roof have fully charged the eight new batteries over the last two weeks so they were set to go. He plugged it in… and bingo bango bongo.. We have power and lots of it.

We celebrated with dinner before E spent 3 hours building an Ikea cabinet for some of our books.

Next we need to tackle the water pressure issue.. E had strung a garden hose down to the house from the studio and the water pressure was just fine.. So he bought new pipe today (its cheap) and we are going to ignore finding the leak, bypass the old system and lay a new water line…

But it doesn’t have to

be done today..

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lift and tote

Can’t remember the name of the show but my friend Lisa and I used to regularly watch a home renovation show. The owners weren’t allowed to return to their home until the “big reveal”. It’s all in the editing but up until the last moment the house looked like a disaster and then just as the owners came in the door the last beautiful touch was applied to great approval and excitement by all…

Today, E and I felt kind of like we were living the final moments of the reno show. Except that it isn’t the owners who are coming but our kids. Our hard work today to get the house ready for them is ironic since the main reason we had kids was to have them do our work for us… Lifting the barge and toting the bale or however the song goes was normally their responsiblity… and then they grew up and moved away and we have been left, these days with a seemingly great amount of toting and lifting…

E finished the drywalling and mudding and sanding that he is going to get done before they get here..Then he painted the new guest room, hallway and doors. There is a bit of drywalling to do but it can wait until next week. We want a break from the dust and mess. As E says, he is only one man… and there needs to be time in the day to soak his back in the tub. I followed behind him cleaning up the dreadful drywall dust and trying to make the house look more homey than Armageddon.

Very pleased with how things are looking. We have had to change our plan for the window seat… the paint colours look odd under our new cushions. So when you look at the picture imagine that the bottom is black to match the bottom of the day bed… Our friend owns an upholstery company in Richmond and did a gorgeous job on the cushions. They are made with sunbrella and should be fairly hard wearing. A perfect spot to rest a cot for a wee baby to sleep.

When you are looking at the picture you also have to imagine cork flooring and window frames. While you are at it imagine an area rug and a vase of flowers…

Great excitement. I have a sink and if you can imagine in an off grid house a microwave!! I bought some groceries and yesterday, I actually cooked a meal. We had home-made spaghetti sauce with the few tomatoes I was able to grow this summer in the garden.  I think it may well be a solid year since I cooked from scratch in my kitchen….

 

The inverter company in Minnesota was most upset that we were having trouble with our new inverter so they are sending us a new one. E is picking it up tomorrow and we should have power for the weekend. If so, we can install the new fridge. Right now it is at the top of the driveway…

We are hoping our kids are willing to help us get the fridge down to the house…After all, what kind of fun would a weekend with their parents be if they don’t have an opportunity to

lift and tote…


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As her view

Yesterday’s plan, for the crew’s two days off, was to focus on the guest room. We wanted to finish the dry wall and paint before all of our kids and our new grand daughter come for Thanksgiving. Two solid days of work could have the room finished. A grandchild worthy guest room was our two day goal on Saturday night when the crew left.

…..but……. a week ago E installed new solar panels. They are working great. New batteries also great.. It’s the inverter (read very expensive inverter) which isn’t working. Until it is, we can’t bring down the new fridge.(and buy a turkey)… We set aside drywalling when an islander who is in the know about these things came by yesterday to check E’s installation.. He couldn’t find anything wrong… no reason … 

Walking them back to their car we told them how the new water pump isn’t working either. It is supposed to shut off at 55 psi but can’t seem to get past 45. We walked past the newly mulched garden and commented how some plants look very healthy while everything else on the property is dead. The penny dropped. The reason we have had no water this summer even though our 5000 gallon tanks were full in April….,and that these plants are green and that the pump can’t seem to get enough pressure… There must be a slow leak in the water pipe somewhere……

We set aside the drywalling and the inverter problems and got out the shovels and pick axes…after five hours of digging rock and soil….we couldn’t find the leak….  we dug a lovely twenty foot trench for no apparent reason.

Today, day two of our two day plan we had to set aside drywalling, inverting and trenching to go to town for yet again, another trip to the bureaucrats for E’s executoring……so the crew are back tomorrow and the guest room looks no different. 

Twelve sleeps til the gang arrive. I’m hoping our four week old granddaughter doesn’t have high expectations for a finished guest room. She doesn’t seem to be the type who is particular about paint colours and flooring as much

As her view

 


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Aren’t the Rockefellers 

Many of our projects are “almost” complete. Eight times out of ten a project isn’t finished because a part didn’t make it over or we are waiting on another project to finish before we can complete the next stage. When we start each day with many projects “almost” finished I am pleased to report that each day we are in fact seeing progress.

The final part for the chimney arrived on the barge today so we are officially heated. Project complete.

Our interior doors finally arrived today. We have in fact sent the barge three times for our door order. Even with the doors ready and waiting in the store, the entire order never seemed to make it on the barge.. Stores fault not the barge… Now we need to get the paint for the doors and E can install them.. Maybe Tuesday, I will be able to say the doors are complete.

E has all eight solar panels installed on the roof. He was able to install the panels without adding any more holes in the metal than were needed to initially attach the metal to the roof. However, the inverter isn’t working .. don’t know why… but I can’t say solar is complete just yet. Maybe in a few days. 

In the meantime he is installing 300 watts on the gen shed with the old panels given to us from Mary. These solar panels will power the water pump. We had a rack left over from our original solar panel setup which we were able to use.. I  should be able to say tomorrow that the water pump project is finished. This will make the water pressure in our shower stronger, and our kids happier when they visit next month.

We had two barges this week with a combined load of 8 thousand pounds. This included lumber for the deck, a fridge, the cedar facia, plywood for the foundation wall, plexiglass for the railing, assorted hardware, and garden mulch. Whew.. it’s a lot of stuff.

Whenever there is a spare inch on a barge, which is rare, I order something for the garden. Although most of the rockery down to the house is piled in debris waiting for burn season I was able to get a start up at the top with the twenty bags of mulch which came today.

That was our fourth barge. I’m hoping one more will do it..We 

aren’t the Rockefellers.


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Different than rats

First day of rain with cold wind in months. Sitting inside with our roof on and windows in we are quite smug… smug and dry. By three O’clock we were starting to get a little chilled so we lit our first fire in our new fireplace on our newly tiled hearth…now we are smug, dry and warm.

E was on the roof yesterday putting up the first four solar panels. Today, with the change of weather we were forced inside, so he is installing the new inverter and batteries.

I long ago accepted the fact that I feed the squirrels as well as the birds. I now buy the squirrels their own peanuts. One little cutie sits on a rock at my door in the mornings yapping at me until I bring him his daily ration. 

Yesterday, I sat on the pathway watching that E didn’t fall of the roof. Not quite sure how much help I’d have been if he was in the ocean but none the less, I felt I should be aware of his status. While there, I occupied my time watching where the squirrel was taking his peanuts. Low and behold he has found a nice hollow arbutus for his storage locker right at my door above his feeder. How very convenient for him. Today he was filling it with moss, so I guess he is moving in. How very convenient for me..

E was wondering what it is about squirrels that make me like them,, Why do I think they are so cute? How are they any 

different than rats