To live there

Another town day yesterday. With any luck it will be the last for two months. We bought diesel and gas, sorted out the Post Office (so our friend can pick up any packages that come in over the winter) and picked up another big grocery order from Save On.

We haven’t set foot in a grocery store, since, I can’t remember when. Maybe last year? We order what we need on line and they bring it to our car. The service is free and awesome! I mentioned to “our personal shopper” one week that we were going to load the groceries onto a boat. She suggested that she could pack the groceries in strong cardboard boxes for us, if that would help. It would, she has and now our pantry, freezer and closets are all full.

The weekly community grocery delivery continues. Through the kindness of the two guys running it, islanders like E and I can still get fresh milk and vegies through the coming months. We are set for the staples like flour, sugar, yeast, coffee, tomato sauce and wine!

When the temps cool and we light the wood stove again the house will soon be filled with the scents of homemade soups, sauces and chilies. We have been hesitant to make the house any hotter this summer by turning the oven on but it won’t be long before we will also make our own homemade bread and treats. I love the fall and winter! Pumpkin spice muffins, sourdough bread and cinnamon buns.. yum..

One note about the diesel. We have needed the Kubota 7K generator just once since early March. It is three quarters full of diesel and we don’t expect it will need any more fuel before Christmas. This is our first full year with the new solar panels (4800 watts) so our generator needs are really anyone’s guess.

There are two quilt projects all set to go. I am just waiting for the rain. Seems unnatural to sew on a sunny day but we all know those BC rains will come eventually and I will be happy to turn my attention to the sewing machine when the garden is wrapped up.

We had an amazing whale show last night. A group of, maybe 8, Orca spent several hours in the waters in front of us, presumably eating their dinner. I posted a couple of quick videos on my youtube channel. Orca Aug 27

This is our tenth winter here, and , as you can maybe tell, I am looking forward to it. We are together and we intend to do whatever we have to do to stay as safe as we can be.

As is usual on a sunny weekend morning there were kayakers under our deck again today. I could hear them talking.

Man- First thing I would do is put a diving board off that deck.

Woman – That house is gorgeous, I bet it costs a million dollars.

Long pause

Woman – You would have to be a different kind of person

to live there..

all the vulnerable

If for no other reason than to mark the minutiae of our off-grid life for the history books, I will summarize our summer.

Those of you who have read the blog for a while know that we have a weather station here which measures the winds, temperatures and rainfall on our cliff. The water measurements on the weather station for the last five months are grim. We have had record high temperatures accompanied by relatively non existent rain fall. On many days, here in our multi windowed house, if it weren’t for the seaside winds, we surely would have melted. The days of rainy BC are over.

WEATHER

HARVEST

Despite the best efforts of the hordes of rabbits who now live on our driveway, and the posse of voles living in the garden, and the multitude of squirrels climbing my pear tree, all of whom are looking for food, we have managed to grow a few vegetables. In combination with the drought-like weather conditions, though, the garden couldn’t produce all that I had hoped for. It did however give us all that we need to live here this winter with a well supplied pantry.

PRESERVES

We have canned:

11 pints Salsa

8 cups of red wine jelly

16 pints Dill Pickles

18 quarts of tomato sauce

GARDEN

We harvested

  • 130 Ring of Fire hot peppers More than a lifetime supply for E and I.
  • 18 figs

The fig tree came from a cutting from my brother and sister-in-law. It was the first time we harvested any figs from it at all. There appears to be a second crop coming, maybe in September. We were able to take a cutting and give a baby fig to a different brother and sister-in-law who live here on the island.

  • 6 Cinderella pumpkins

Pumpkins need a lot of water so all six were pretty small but they weigh a total of 15 pounds. Plenty of roasted pumpkin for our winter pie and muffin needs.

  • One 6 pound watermelon
  • Three 1 pound cantaloupes
  • 71 pounds of tomatoes

I absolutely loved the two main types of tomatoes I grew this summer but lack of water really did hinder the harvest.

  • 10 pounds of green peppers

The green peppers are still producing and I am wondering if I move them into the greenhouse how long I can keep them going.

We had plenty of spinach and lettuce in the early part of the summer. The onions I grew from seed are delicious and the potatoes were good. My garlic was sad so I will try a different method next year.

But enough about the vegetables and the garden. Let’s talk about what you really want to hear about.

WATER!

We have, as you all know, the capacity of 8000 gallons water storage. On January 3rd we were full. We had 8000 gallons saved in the tanks. On February 1st we still had 8000 gallons.

In our efforts to use up all of the construction materials hanging around the property, we had used old piping we found behind the studio when we plumbed the bunkie. In the spring we opened up the water to the garden and bunkie. The bunkie bathroom pipe then burst. We didn’t notice, cause it is under the aforesaid bunkie. On May 22nd, we were down to 2600 gallons.

The rainfall we would have received since April 1st had the potential of replacing 1600 gallons of water in the tanks. In May we can also pump about 100 gallons a day from our well. We tried to build up the cache again. By June 25th we had 4100 gallons. Not great but pretty good. I could work with that. Then I screwed up big time. Twice, I left the hose on in the garden. Yada yada yada and August 18th we sat with 900 gallons.

At this time of year we can get maybe 25 gallons from our well a day. I have pretty much packed up the garden and harvested all I am going to harvest of the vegetables. We are still at 900 gallons. Hopefully the rains will come soon. I have a lot of dying plants and it is all my fault. We wasted probably 4000 gallons of water. Sigh, fortunately bathing is overrated. Clean clothes are a distant memory.

In the spring I was getting fairly melancholy. Missing my kids, missing my friends. I know that I was not alone in those thoughts. We have had the most wonderful summer, though, with endless visits from vaccinated, careful family. Their efforts to stay safe enabled them to visit us with limited risk to their Dad. The bunkie was integral to their comfort. In a time when E and I haven’t really been able to leave our property we have had 71 nights this year with one or more of our children visiting. Incredible.

But now it is the fall and the Delta variant is upon us. E’s daily immune suppression drugs leave him basically unvaccinated. Even though he has had two doses of the Moderna. He will need a third to be protected. He is at high risk. With people out there unwilling to vaccinate, it has allowed the virus to continue to mutate. It is a matter of time before everyone will get the Delta variant and those most at risk and the unvaccinated will be the ones in the hospital. His life is at risk.

We are realistic. We plan to spend the winter again, holed up on our property, together. We have one last trip this week to get gas and the Post Office sorted out and that will be it for us for a good long while. Until everyone realizes that the vaccine isn’t for just themselves but humanity, the pandemic won’t be over for anyone, least of

all the vulnerable

creative number crunching

Thirty years ago, I gave E the best birthday present I could think of. It was really the perfect gift, didn’t cost me anything but a little sweat equity and he, as it turned out, was thrilled with her. He has been sharing his birthday cake with our daughter ever since.

Their birth date, landing in the middle of August, timed perfectly with annual family vacations. Often as not we were here on the island on our annual trek to visit E’s dad, when they blew out the candles.

But there were times when we weren’t.

One year we splurged on a very nice cabin on the beach in Naramata. With a planned side trip through the Kootenays on our way home, we booked a well known hotel outside of Nelson. The pictures in the accommodation guide looked appealing. I called to request a three night stay and, for what should have been our first clue, the reservation agent asked “Are you sure?” The decor of our room was reminiscent of my elementary school, with flesh colored cinder block walls, bare floors and an open clothes closet. The much celebrated hot springs were the most horrid cesspool I had ever seen. With all three kids in our bed during the night, miserable, we left for home at 4 am. E spent his birthday driving the Coquihalla in the fog.

One year, with rain predicted across the Province, we cancelled our camping trip the night before we were to leave and, after the kids had gone to bed, unpacked the car of tents and coolers and in the morning headed, instead, south to Disneyland rather than the Shuswap. E spent his fortieth birthday at the Disney Pocahontas live show, twice. The trip came with mixed reviews. We had a great time camping and travelling together, the three male members of our family loved the rides but our daughter, the birthday girl, hated everything about Disneyland. Those of you who know her, won’t be surprised to know that, fifteen years later, she wrote an essay in high school titled “No, it is not a small world after all, please stop singing.”

Four years later the two of them blew out the candles in the St. Paul’s Critical Cardiac Care unit. E had been next up for a transplant that weekend but, ironically, became too ill for it. He ended up waiting seven more months to be healthy enough for the surgery, sick enough to be at the top of the list and at the same time a heart becoming available.

For E’s 60th and her 24th, we had a great party on the island at the family home. Lots of food and wine, friends and family. E danced long into the night.

There have only been two birthdays in thirty years when they haven’t shared their cake. Covid was to blame last year. We are all together again this year and ain’t it great.

I spent the day today making a gorgeous New York Cheesecake to go with the strawberry sauce I made last week for tomorrow’s candle blowing extravaganza. There should be 96 candles on that cake tomorrow. During a heat wave and fire ban I might need to do some

creative number crunching

A trashy book

I watched Mayberry RFD with Andy Griffiths, in the ’60’s, as we all did. Like most of you, I remember the iconic episode when Aunt Bee made her homemade pickles and the pickles, despite her best efforts, were inedible. Poor Andy and Opie didn’t have the heart to tell her and were expected to eat them all, so they replaced hers with store bought pickles. She was then so proud she entered them in the county fair to finally beat her best friend Clara in the dilly competition. Of course hilarity then ensued.

To this day, every time I think I might like to try making pickles I think of poor Aunt Bee and set aside any thoughts of trying to make such a complicated condiment. Until today…

The temperatures are again supposed to hit the mid thirties today and tomorrow. I thought what better time to try making pickles for the first time. My friend offered to get me the cukes and dill that I needed, at a farm on Vancouver Island. Thanks Heather! E and I began early this morning and we were done by 11am. Three Quarts and ten Pints.

We won’t know for a few weeks if our first attempt at home made pickles is better than Aunt Bee’s. There is no county fair here, or store, and my best friend doesn’t make pickles so our efforts can’t go too wrong. Worst case scenario, we will have a garlicky addition to the compost bin. Best case scenario, it will be another treat to add to the winter cheese boards. Either way, hilarity always ensues.

I am fairly certain we are entitled to now escape the heat and spend the rest of the day in front of a fan with

a trashy book.

my labeling methods

A little bit of a garden update for you. If you aren’t into gardening, take the day off. There is nothing for you here.

I tried to grow a few different things in the garden this summer. New varieties of tomatoes, Jalapeno peppers, cucumbers, sweet peppers, potatoes and melons. The Jalapeno peppers are crazy prolific and, although picked when green, they are starting to turn red, and it is fascinating to watch. I won’t need to grow them again. I am fairly certain we have a lifetime supply.

On our menu tonight, we have new potatoes and a salad made with cucumbers and watermelon grown in our own garden! Watermelon grown here! This afternoon I had to sneak a wee taste and it is so sweet. Next summer, watermelon will again be included. Same with the cantaloupe, also sweet and juicy. Definitely an unexpected treat. I made a mistake where I planted them but they have proven themselves deserving of a better spot in next year’s garden.

The Summer Dance cucumbers I grew are healthy and relatively prolific, but I am unhappy with the number of seeds they have. Next year we will try a different type. The potatoes which we grew for the first time are delicious. They were grown in potato bags, as garden space was limited, and although we didn’t get a ton, there is certainly enough for people who don’t eat a lot of potatoes. We can dig them up as we need them and they will probably last us into September with no need to worry about keeping them over winter.

We pick a couple of figs as they ripen, every day. So far, maybe a dozen, which I am saving in the freezer until I have enough to make a fig spread for my winter cheese boards. We have harvested 40 pounds of tomatoes so far, which have all been canned, also for the winter. Our water isn’t going to last too much longer, so any tomatoes coming now need to be saved. End Blossom Rot, from inconsistent watering, has been a big problem of the summer drought so far and will likely impede a lot of the coming harvest.

All these successes pale in comparison to the greatest achievement of my summer.

I have tried many methods of propagating roses since I got here. None were successful. Last January, when I was pruning them, I took cuttings from them all and, with traditional methods, tried to make baby roses. On a whim, I buried one branch of each of my roses deep into the compost bin surrounded by gorgeous rich compost. In April, I uncovered them and lo and behold there was a branch covered in roots. I potted it up and put it among the annuals on my deck. Today, it bloomed. It is an actual thriving, happy, healthy rose that I made myself! I thought it was the Peace Rose, but now that it is blooming I think it is a different one. I will know better over the next week. I am so eager to try some more next year, but will need to be more attentive to

my labeling methods

I always have

Shanty’s brother Seamus is here visiting for a couple of weeks. Shanty is thrilled, Piper, is not so sure. I think he is wondering just how many dogs we are expecting him to welcome into his home.

All dogs seem to have their own little quirks. We had one Cocker Spaniel who had a taste for lettuce. His name was Cody and he stole my father in law’s wallet out of his pants pocket and ate all the cash. I might have mentioned before another Cocker of ours, bless her heart, called Ticker. She stole my dental floss and draped it all around our bedroom. The next time I went to the dentist and the hygienist asked if I had been flossing, I explained that I honestly couldn’t because the dog ate my floss. Years later, I noticed a scribbled note in the margins of my chart with words to the effect of “she says her dog ate her floss”.

Great bounty in the garden today. I pick my tomatoes a day early to beat any hungry animals to the punch. They ripen up just great in the kitchen over night.

I really have no idea what I am doing with the jalapeño peppers. They seem slow to turn red so we tested a salsa recipe yesterday using them green, as they are now and the salsa was plenty hot. So, I harvested a ton of the bigger peppers today to dry while we wait out the rest to turn red on the plant.

Now that the canning of preserves is starting up for next winter’s pantry, it is time to accept that some of last year’s yummy, filled jars need to be used up sooner than later. With little company and no ability to entertain, a lot of my usual chutneys etc. weren’t eaten. I need the larger jars for canning my tomatoes so we are forced to make apple pies for every day consumption, you know ‘cause we need the jars. A lot of the jams etc. can last another winter so it looks like only the sauce and salsa will be canned this summer.

I looked up on the google how best to dry jalapeño peppers and dental floss was suggested as an excellent thread to use for hanging them in the kitchen. Without Ticker around any more to play with my dental floss and with two new dogs with their own different creative quirks, I am only too happy to use my seemingly infinite amount of accrued dental floss for drying peppers in addition to using it to cut cheesecake slices like

I always have.