A new normal

Life is, ever so gently, becoming normal again. We are 2.5 weeks post first vaccine and last night we visited, just four of us, around a campfire at my sister-in-law’s. First time in almost a year. Today, I loaded up all my seed tomatoes and drove around the island delivering vegetable plants to my friends. I can not remember the last time I visited six different properties and chatted with friends, let alone visited them all in one day. Wasn’t sure if I would remember how.

We were socially distanced and outside but there I was socializing none the less. Brief as the visits were, it is still about five properties more than I have visited in over a year. The conversations revolved entirely around gardening.

I have given away (traded) 43 tomato plants now and kept 21 for my own garden. My friend is giving me two different ones in trade for those I gave her. So 23 tomatoes this year will go in my garden. Last year I swore I wouldn’t grow more than 10 tomato plants. But, I have the room and enjoy having the variety, especially in my pasta sauce. I think the variety creates a unique flavour. I gave away 52 pounds of tomatoes to friends with no garden last year and will probably have enough to share again this year. So the plants go to those with gardens and the tomatoes go to those without. Everyone wins.

In return, I was offered alternate varieties of tomatoes, eggs, herbs of all sorts, a variety of peppers, and prawns. One new friend has just started her garden so the tomatoes were a garden warming gift. It’s all good. I love to share them and really like the idea that plants I have grown from seed are all over the island.

One friend suggested that I should grow vegie starts specifically to sell to her and to the islanders who grow vegetables. I kind of like the trading idea but maybe a little hobby growing vegetable starts and flowers could be born. Maybe earn enough money to support my gardening habit. Something to think about but, in the meantime, I have had fun this spring with my new greenhouse.

So now I move my greenhouse project to growing flower starts and plant divisions.

E has finished electrifying the new garden fence. This job involves installing a single wire around the top perimeter of the garden which administers a small shock when touched by masked bandits. It is powered by a small solar panel on a fence post. Both of us, over the years, have accidently touched it ourselves and although uncomfortable it is not life threatening to the intruders. So with our new fencing for the deer and wire for the raccoons we just need to finish the bottom perimeter to defeat the three bunnies which I saw today under the apple trees at my gate.

If there was to be anything which would get me to socialize these days, it was the opportunity to share plants and talk about gardens. I am not sure if we will ever feel comfortable traveling internationally, visiting indoors with people who won’t vaccinate, or sharing a mic at a New Year’s karaoke party in the fire hall, but today I enjoyed the beginning of the

the new normal

need more lessons

Got up this morning, looked out the window, and the waters before us were flat, calm and peaceful. Not a soul to be seen. I had no sooner said to E that it would be the perfect time for a whale to appear when a whale appeared. I apparently had some talents which remained, until this morning, undiscovered.

We don’t actually know for sure that it is Bobby (Hammer) because we haven’t seen his tail but this whale wanders about the channel like Bobby did last spring. This morning at 6:45 he went past our house only to turn around at the end of the island and come back around 7:30… He went up to the nearby island, turned around and came back again at 8:15.

We didn’t see him again today, but to know he is out there makes us wary of leaving the window and we were reluctant to resume our work in the garden.

But we did because, well, we are confident he will be back. It is too soon for him to leave. He just got here.

The rains this week are useful to me. It isn’t raining hard enough that we have to stay inside, yet it gives a bit of a soak to the newly planted garden.

I planted the five potato bags today and the two garden beds I had set aside for carrots and beets were turned over to potatoes, as well as a few pots. I ordered, to understate the situation, more potatoes than we could possibly need. I begged my neighbour to take some of them. She was kind enough to help me out. Half are Yukon Gold and half are Russett and will be most welcome if they produce. Shanty is under the impression the potato bags were meant to give her a soft bed for napping while I work.

I did find a spot for the beets, actually two types of beets. The onions are all in, though they look so frail I am worried about them. I will plant the carrots tomorrow. I see some roast vegies in our fall future.

Our two week wait post-vaccine ended today. But E isn’t out of the woods yet. Word is he needs a second dose to get to where most people are after one dose. Probably going to need three if there is no herd immunity. So, although we feel better about his safety, we aren’t there yet. When people refuse to be vaccinated it is the lives of guys like E they are risking. Cruel.

Quick story. We have friends, early blog followers, lets call them Barrie and Sue. They had a dinner party years ago which was epic. They forwarded the blog post I wrote about the evening (only one awake) to some of our other neighbours with a recommendation to follow the blog. This couple were two of the first people we met here back in the 80’s. I have written about the wife before. (with the seniors) She is a brilliant bridge player and ever so patiently tries to pass on her skills. The husband, with a heart of gold, would always, as the kids say today “speak his truth”. We could always expect an honest opinion from both of them.

Him: Barrie tells me I should be following this blog of yours.

Me: That’s nice of him. Sure if you want to. I can set it up so that if there is a new posting it will come to your mail.

Him: What if I don’t want to read it?

Me: Well, if you don’t want to read it, that would be just fine and if it becomes too much just tell me and I can stop them from coming to your email.

Two years passed..

Him: Something is wrong. We haven’t been getting your blog posts lately. Can you fix it?

This post is for you Ron. I still don’t know how you pulled off that grand slam the last time we played bridge but when we all play again you can explain it. I am pretty sure the whale visit today was for you. Our world was better for knowing you.

Mary, come back soon, I am going to

need more lessons

How it’s going

One friend gave us three months, another figured E’s health would send us back to the city before five years. We didn’t really know what to expect of the life we would have but it had been a dream of ours since our honeymoon and the simplicity of retiring to a townhouse was not working.

So, nine years ago today, in the pouring rain we moved to the complicated life that it is living off grid on an island. It is raining again today, but we are warm and happy and frankly a little surprised that nine years have passed. One friend came to see it nine years ago and has never been back, other friends love their time here and return to help with our projects. It isn’t for everyone and we get that. It certainly helps that we enjoy each other’s company because we are together all day every day.

The original cabin was owned by friends of E’s Dad. They were heartier souls than we are and had a cook stove , no running hot water and very few conveniences. It was a really sweet cabin down a windy path at the edge of a cliff on 2.2 acres. We instantly fell in love with it but immediately added a Bosch on-demand hot water system, a Pacific Energy air tight stove and an additional 1000 watts of solar panels. Our needs may be simple but we were too old to live without hot water, a warm fire in the winter or the NHL. Access to ice cream is always a challenge but we have learned to accept that in life we must carry a certain burden of suffering.

Fortunately the previous owners were gardeners and I was gifted with 22 years of composted soil and a garden brilliantly placed between two rock cliffs which block the wind and increase the heat. The owner specialized in growing Lilies and, although it was a fairly simple layout, it was surrounded by excellent deer fencing, and the deciding factor in our purchase of the property. I was just so unhappy without a garden in the townhouse.

The first order of business was to rototill the ground and the second was to install a seating area. For the life of me I do not understand people who have gardens with nowhere to sit. Whatever is a garden for if not a place to enjoy the sights and sounds which the flowers bring? Yes, I know, food. Gardens can be just a place to grow food but even a vegetable garden needs a place to rest while tasting a fresh tomato.

We then added a porch to the garden shed and pathways and a pond and now an arbour and a greenhouse. I love my time in the garden and E certainly enjoys his pond! I am forever grateful to and think of the previous owners often when I dig into the beautiful soil they left me.

Our third year here we hired John to put in a driveway down to the house with his excavator. Guests (grandchildren) could then safely get down the hill to our house with boulders at the edge to prevent unintentional cliff diving. If need be we can now drive to our door, although we rarely do.

Our fifth year here we started the big renovation of the cabin. I needed a deck where I could watch the wildlife and was desperate for a bathtub in a guest friendly bathroom. Our original bathroom was in our bedroom so guests would have to walk past our bed during the night to have a pee.. There is a gorgeous outhouse with the best view in the land but it is on the edge of a cliff and not appealing to my city slicker friends at 4 am. E wanted a house with foundations and a deck where we could entertain but the man appreciates a good soak in the tub as much as me.

We sold our share in the family home here on the island and with the design help from Tom, the construction skills of Craig, and a lot of help from friends and family we were left to live the rest of our days in our dream home by the sea.

So many of our old friends have asked us what it is we do all day. I thought it might be time for a quick photo tour of how it started and

how its going

about their affections

The goal was simple today. The compost area needed to be cleaned out and the rose beds prepped for their new residents before the rains come tomorrow night. Nothing like a couple of days of solid rain to make plants feel welcome in their new home. E needed to finish the fencing in that corner and hang the lattices. Years ago he gave me a gardening book called Vertical Gardening. I am calling on that inspiration to cover the unsightly water tank. You can imagine how it is going to look. The plants from left to right are: The First Lady pink Clematis (Lattice), Honeysuckle , Julie Andrews pink rose, Climbing White Eden rose (Lattice), Honeysuckle (Lattice). It was a good job to get done and I look forward to the picture I can post next year when it is a wall of scented beauty. Guests going in and out of the bunkie will hopefully appreciate a scented walk to the door.

We had medical reasons to go into town this week so we did a big shop with Save On while we were there and had the groceries delivered curbside. I find the process incredibly convenient and safe. At my leisure I can scan their web site and pick out anything on my master list which is on sale and bulk buy for the coming winter. Yes, that’s what I said. I am already thinking about and planning for next winter. Any potential covid exposure in town yesterday was minimal. Ironically, if it wasn’t for medical issues, we would never have had to leave the island this year at all. We don’t expect to go to town now for months.

Greenhouse is proving to be a whole lot of fun. Tiny seeds are turning into little green plants. It’s so fun to watch. Another month and they will be ready to go in the garden. I have optimistic plans for future experiments.

I ordered seed potatoes with the intention of growing them in potato bags. There isn’t enough space to grow them in the beds. Someone planted flowers in a lot of the vegetable beds. So thought I would give bags a try. I am going to put them in front of the new rose bed. Soil is ready and the bags are set to go but the seed potatoes are still in transit. So frustrating! Thinking ahead, I wonder if I could use the mouse proof greenhouse as cold storage in the winter for potatoes, carrots and apples. What do you think?

The peas are up six inches in the garden, and the lettuce and spinach will be ready soon. There is asparagus up and the rhubarb looks healthy and abundant. Even the garlic is doing well. We went prawning this week and got enough for a nice dinner. We will maybe try to go out once a week to augment the dinner menus… I have jars and jars of food in the pantry, which I canned last summer, but haven’t touched… We are not going to starve.

The Otter have opened a nightclub in the rocks under our deck. They are not shy. There is a lot of “flirting” going on with some of the otter quite open

about their affections.

Next whale visit

Beautiful day. We were up in the garden by 8 am. We had no choice really because half the fencing was down and the deer were lined up to jump our makeshift barriers. The bunnies and raccoons were also anticipating a big feed until they realized there was really nothing in the garden yet for them to ravage. They somehow missed the peas but judging by the excitement of the dogs on the scent when we entered, the critters were too focused on the fish pond to eat peas.

Unfortunately the humpback whale, lets call him Bobby until we know his identity for sure, returned at 9:30 am, when we were in the garden. We were hesitant to leave the garden but took the risk, albeit briefly, to watch the whale. By the time we got down to the deck he wasn’t very close in so we went back to the garden pretty quickly. Our deer don’t need much encouragement to take advantage of an opportunity.

We have taken apart the compost bin and emptied all the gold on the garden path to fill planters and make a bed for my new roses. In one year the compost bin has made another ton of gorgeous soil. We are going to move the composting station yet again. This will be the fourth location since we got here. I just hate wasting valuable fenced garden space for something that can easily go anywhere.

As we are not ever going to raise chickens (E can’t be near birds or rabbits post transplant), we have dismantled the chicken run to expand the garden area under the plum tree. This gives me a nice shaded garden area next to the original shed. So far the dogs are pretty happy to have an area to relax out of the sun. If all of the hydrangea cuttings in the greenhouse survive, they will be very happy planted there, once I remove a ton of stones and add some soil.

We had our covid vaccines last week and have had no side effects. Most of our friends should be done by the end of the week. Most of our family are done already, with the rest to be done shortly. We come from a generation who lived through measles and polio and meningitis and welcomed vaccines. Most of us have seen the eradication of small pox and proudly wear a scar on our shoulder from the small pox vaccine. We were happy to include our granddaughter when we got our shot and to explain to her that we were doing it for our neighbours and our community as well as ourselves.

E poured cement for a couple of the posts, which kind of ended our work day around noon up there. We are only contracted to work four hours a day so we returned to the deck to wait for the

next whale visit

like me happy

I mentioned that we went to Vancouver in March for E’s annual testing. But I didn’t mention that he got a clean bill of health. Testing was at the hospital, but interviews with the Dr. and team nurse were by phone. They gave E his test results and spent some time asking about his general health. Both asked questions like how was his mood and what is his energy level and how much exercise, if any, does he get in a week. All in all a very simple process to be handled by phone. I guess made simple because he is healthy. One wonders if this is the way Doctor appointments will continue post pandemic.

Yesterday was the first day since September when we didn’t need to light a fire in the house. Woke up to eighteen degrees in the living room which is just fine for us. Even our granddaughter was warm enough. Last week I barely got anything done outside because of the crazy winds. It was freezing in here, so the fire was going all day. But those days are already forgotten as it is now 20 degrees out on the deck and 23 degrees in the house. Winter is over, done, finished and forgotten.

The swallows came back to their summer homes this week along with the hummingbirds, which is a sure sign that winter is over. Last year a one year old humpback whale, which we fondly referred to as Bobby, arrived during a very warm March and, although they often return to the same waters year after year, and we were hoping he had adopted our waters as his home, we had seen no sign of him.

Turns out that Bobby isn’t a big fan of the cold either because the wind died down, the sun came out and Bobby returned to the waters in front of our house today. Welcome back!

Our summer hours began today. We were up at five and in the garden by eight. I have tons to do in the greenhouse and both flower and vegies gardens, and E wanted to continue replacing the fencing around the perimeter.

When the transplant team nurse asked E if he was getting any exercise he laughed. She asked what he did for exercise. He told her he walks the dog for an hour every morning and she said “Oh that’s very good” and then he described a typical day. Lifting 72 pound propane tanks on and off boats or bucking wood, splitting wood, unloading barges, loading trucks, lifting and working with 60 pound rolls of wire, pouring cement, building a bunkie, building a greenhouse or digging trenches. She was very impressed. I guess not a lot of 66 year old heart transplant patients spend their days working like E does. But I guess none of them have to keep a wife

like me happy