behold the pond

It isn’t easy for the gardeners on this island. There is very little natural soil. We live off grid on a rock. What soil there is, has been created by determined hands. Hands determined to grow food despite the less than optimum conditions.

The soil in our garden was prepared lovingly for twenty years by our predecessors.. Careful gatherings of leaves, seaweed, bones, household compost and pond muck created the deepest richest soil that a plant could want to live in. My plants and I are thankful.may 28 016

It isn’t just the lack of soil which provides the challenge to our island gardeners..When we leave the garden at night to fall in bed exhausted from our days work, nature itself, walking in the disguise of a raccoon, vole, rabbit or deer challenges us. The fences of the gardens are tested every night and when the boundaries fail, we the gardeners arrive in the morning to find our lettuce nipped and our tomatoes  vanished.  Our work begins again for we are an optimistic bunch… This time, we think, no animal will ever be able to breach the wall….

We have plenty of sun for our gardens but water is in short supply. We pump our water from a well and if we haven’t gathered enough over the winter in our tanks, by July we will find our gardens mere dust bowls filled with crooked wee carrots and bitter greens.

I am unusual on the island. I prefer to put my energies into flowers.. Sure, I am trying to grow vegetables too.. But, I focus my energies on flowers. I do grow vegetables that I will be able to can or store for our consumption during the winter months. During the summer we have easy access to the grocery store in the big city for our healthy food.. In the winter with trips to the city less reliable I need access to leeks, garlic, onions, beets, tomatoes and squash for my soups and sauces.                                      may 28 022

The flowers though, that is what I love… I need to be able to grow flowers which allow me to sit surrounded by their scent and the privacy of their branches  The birds, butterflies and dragon flies are my entertainment… It’s been three years and I have planted a lot of flowers . I was missing a pond.. It took two years to get E on board with the idea but once he was convinced there was no slowing him down. He finished it in a week. Total cost was the glue for the pond liner and the price for the plants and six gold-fish… Thanks to all of our neighbours who contributed their bits and pieces to make it happen.

behold the pond

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like the crocodile

Floating on the top of the ocean outside our window, slightly below the surface was a large round flat deadhead. It passed by our house, looking ever so innocent. Our daughter has barely left the window seat since she got here. She reads there during the day and sleeps there at night. In between times, she gazes out the window to keep a watch for what may float by.DSCN2248

This particular dead head was as dangerous as they come. Like a crocodile, as it lays in wait beneath the surface of the water for its prey, that deadhead will bring certain death to an engine propeller. There was nothing we could do about it as it floated past us out into the channel.

It was a very quiet day. Our daughter cozy on the window seat reading with me working on the newsletter and E filling in his ditch. He laid the water pipe in the ditch with the ends exposed waiting to be connected and then he called it a day. He isn’t feeling well and we think the Bells Palsy is back. He is starting to look like a pirate again.

Our doctor in L retired and E’s pirate look has prompted us to find a new GP on the island. When things are going well one doesn’t really need a GP. But things seem to go south fairly regularly with the two of us so we need a GP easily accessible.. He didn’t want to go to emergency like last year. (emergency)

I called the transplant clinic asking for a recommendation of a GP who maybe has had a transplant patient before. While I waited for them to call me back I started to call around and found a guy in the wee town where we buy our groceries who is taking new patients.
They wanted to set up a get acquainted appointment for E next week but I explained E’s medical history and that he looks like a pirate.. They offered to take him tomorrow.. When the transplant clinic called back later in the day they had a name of a Doctor with transplant experience and by an amazing coincidence.. it’s the same guy that we found.. GP ten minutes from where we keep our boat, experience in transplant patients and will see E tomorrow.. Score!

We are having a great time here on the island. We are getting lots of work done in the cooler weather. We have had great visits with our children and all systems are working well.. But E’s medical situation is always laying beneath the surface, in wait..

like the crocodile

 

 

only makes sense

Burn piles, ditches, family and food. We have been busy. One of our sons was here for a few days helping us tidy up the property. We wanted to murder take down a few small trees to brighten the area at the entrance of the house. Our son wanted to practice dropping trees.. It was a perfect match.                  oct 13 020

We have a grove of Arbutus trees in front back of the house and we really want to highlight their beauty. I imagine a hill where you can’t get down to the house without noticing  how gorgeous the Arbutus are. Before I share a picture I need still need to do some tidying.. stay tuned.

I entertained myself by cleaning up behind our son and feeding my inner pyromaniac. Burn piles are a highlight of living here. I have divided and transplanted all of my perennials. I also moved a lot of the shrubs to improve the garden design. When I need to take a break, I sit in front of my new fireplace in the garden. It is very civilized.

The birds have found their new teacup feeder.  oct 13 006oct 13 016

After digging for sixty feet E found the connection he was looking for. The branch line connects to the main line right below our first burn pile location. We couldn’t have put it in a worse spot. We picked up the pipes and supplies he needed yesterday and E will complete his water project when the rains stops.   oct 13 032

We were in town yesterday to take our son home and to pick up our daughter. The two were able to visit while the we all had lunch but we still missed our other son. This year, we just could not coordinate Thanksgiving dinner with the entire family at once.

Back on the island my daughter and I came across a Barred Owl on our lane. There have been rumors of his residency since July but it was my first chance to get a good look at him. He is most welcome to move to our lane. I am sure there is plenty for him to eat here.

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Considering the name of our lane. His residence here

only makes sense.                                  dec 15 045

 

 

 

dogs we have

When we first installed the on demand hot water system in the house we put the pressure tank in the closet in the den. ( hot water ) We found it noisy. We then took the closet out. (closet). We then put the pressure tank under the house. There is no insulation under the house, it sat exposed to the elements. Also, when the dogs chased raccoons under the house they would make the pressure tank bounce as they ran past it.. It was not good. So E took it out. The system works fine without it but it is better to have a pressure tank to regulate the hot water temperature.. E is going to install the tank up top in the studio.. To do that he has to dig a trench to the water source and rejig the plumbing so there is an in and an out to the studio.    oct 8 058

I planted my garlic. I used the biggest healthiest of last years crop to seed this years. I think I planted close to sixty cloves of garlic. I still have twelve nice sized ones to supply us for the winter.oct 8 054

I am a big believer in using “the good china”.. My grandmas Petit Point china sat unused in a box for thirty years after she died. E’s mother had the same china and we inherited it. I use the plates for our every day dishes but have limited need for the many many (many many) tea cups… so I made some bird feeders. I bought suet yesterday, melted it and mixed it with some seed. I think it is better they are used than spend their lives boxed in the attic. I will hang them when they are set and show you when we have our first visitor. (The cups are siliconed to the saucer)

oct 8 055

It was foggy when we awoke this morning but it cleared up to be a beautiful day.oct 8 049 oct 8 021

E worked with his pick axe and shovel all day to dig a trench to move the water pressure tank. It made me think perhaps we should have just trained the dogs not to chase racoons. But then I remembered the

oct 8 012

Sami’s tongue hangs out all of the time since he lost his front teeth in the otter attack

dogs we have

 

E’s job list

Our island’s volunteer fire department receives money from the Lottery Corporation for equipment and training. One of the items supported this year was first aid training for eighteen volunteers. During the summer an instructor came to the island to teach the course but E missed it as the course was on a weekend we were away.

Yesterday E and the Y’s went to town for the course. He took the day off from solar panel installation so he could learn how to save my life if and when the occasion should ever come up.. I stayed home and made dinner for the future heros.

and a special treat…                                 oct 2 002

Today, he was back up on the roof. As mentioned before when E is working he has two personalities depending on how the project is going. There is the E personality when things aren’t going well.. He behaves like he has a case of whispered turrets.. Everything seems fine unless you get close to him. If you get close you can hear him swearing angrily… There is also the personality when things are going well and as planned.. That E is always humming and singing while he works… Installing the solar panels is definitely a melodic job.. He likes doing it and it seems to go as planned. This is the second system he has installed.

We had originally planned to put the panels on the roof of the den but once we realized how large the system is we changed our minds. The frame and panels are huge!!.  It is now on the roof of the bedroom and I think it is a much better choice.. We are nothing if not flexible.

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This afternoon we went to visit our new neighbours. Friends of ours purchased the most gorgeous house you could imagine and took possession this week.. We are so happy for them. Not only does the house have wall to wall bookshelves, two bathrooms and a wine fridge.. It has two bathtubs!!!!  I don’t know what colorful adjective to use when I am just so very happy for them but jealous as heck. The shade of green doesn’t exist 🙂

We have come home to watch our new charge controller while I add bookshelves, wine fridges and bathtubs to

E’s job list

 

 

 

To camp here

Living near a bird sanctuary in L, we used to get a great variety of birds in our backyard. Stellar Jays were very common. Although they are really just flying rats, I like them. I fed them peanuts in the shell. There were days when I couldn’t fill the feeder fast enough. I gave up and scattered them on the patio table. The Jays treated the table like a drive thru window at McDonalds.

At our house in L we never locked the doors and usually never closed the patio doors. During the months when the heat was off in the house we left the door open for the fresh air and garden scent, rain or shine.

We were heading to Mexico for spring break in 2004 and when the kids came home from school we dashed out to have our passport pictures taken at London Drugs.. We weren’t gone for more than twenty minutes.  I guess the Stellar Jays grew impatient for more nuts.

When we came home the dogs were very excited. There were feathers on the kitchen floor and there was a giant hole punched through the bag of peanuts. I asked the dogs what the hell had happened. They looked up at the bakers rack beside the fireplace in the family room.                            IMGP0249

The Y’s have had Stellar Jays visit their suet feeder here. We hadn’t seen one until today. At first I thought he was in the Arbutus tree eating the berries like the robins did last year. (Hood of Robins) But I was mistaken. He was in the Garry Oak eating acorns. I hope he sticks around. It brings back fond memories of my garden in L.

E spent the morning yesterday taking the solar panels off the roof.

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In the afternoon we went to the metal super market in town for supplies. E had designed a frame for our panels. With the metal bars he needed, today he built a huge solid frame. It is thirteen feet long. We live on the 49th parallel so the panels will sit at a 49 degree angle for optimum sun exposure.

The panels will face south on the roof of our den.

I occupied myself by cleaning up the spot above the cut at the north end of our property. Our kids are coming this month and one of them likes to sleep in this spot when he comes to visit. The forest floor is covered with a thick soft moss and the view is stunning.. Who wouldn’t want

to camp here

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in a week

 

As I said to London yesterday, usually when everyone starts talking about power and amps and watts, my eyes glaze over and my mind wanders to what is for dinner. But this blog is to record everything and it can’t always be about sea lions and tomatoes. Living off grid, systems are the most important topic.. At every dinner party and coffee shop the topic always comes up. We are just about to head over to coffee shop.. AW isn’t here this weekend but we are all creatures of habit and can’t seem to help ourselves from going to her house on a Sunday morning. Whether she is here or not. I will update the latest in system news here for those of you who wont be at coffee today.

In order for us to have water in the house at SoHo we used to have to turn the generator on. It would pump the water straight from the well. Two winters ago E installed a 1000 gallon water tank ($1000.00) above the well. A 12 volt rv pump  ($200.00) pressurizes the water from the water tank to the house. Two golf cart type batteries are hooked up between the solar panels and the pump. ($280.00). We donated an extra charge controller and it is also connected between the panels and the batteries. (it would have cost $200.00) This system isn’t complicated and has simplified the use of SoHo by the five owners and their families.

When we first moved here to the north end there were 80 watts of solar panels on our roof. With the electronic gadgets we use ie. Television we needed more. We may be off grid but E likes his hockey and I like my movies. We removed the 4 X 20 watt panels and donated them to SoHo for the water pump. (The solar panel would have cost $250.00)  The panels have been sitting on the ground in the sun of the vegetable garden for the last two summers. We needed to get them higher to capture more sun.

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At this house we replaced the 80 watts of panels with the old panels from the W’s house. They had upgraded to 1000 watts and sold us their old ones. Last winter we used those panels which amounted to 300 watts.

Last week we brought 3 treated ten foot 2 X 4’s over to the island. The 2X4’s cost $20.00. Yesterday E spent the whole day down there installing a frame. It had to be built-in the eight foot gap between the two back fence posts. There is a lot of extra space on the frame but it fits nicely. There is a lot of sun in that spot and there will be more when the apple trees are pruned.  The picture was taken at the end of the day, normally those panels sit in full sun. He has to go back today to tidy up the wiring and then it should be done. With E’s free labor and our donated items SoHo got a really great new water system for less than $1500.00.

He has now purchased our new panels. They are sitting in the studio ready for the next project. We (royal we) are going to take the 300 watt panels off of our roof and put them on the studio roof to power his tools and perhaps eventually the well pump.. The B’s have also upgraded their solar panel system and given us four of their older ones. They gave us 4 X 75 watt panels. So with their four and the four currently on our roof we will have a total of 8 X 75 watt panels on the roof of the studio.. Total 600 watts of power..

The new 4 X 250 watt panels will go on our roof.. 1000 watts to power the house lights and electronic gadgets.

The new panels are going to make a huge difference to us. It can’t come too soon. Hockey starts

in a week