Learning from our Ravens! And squawking at DFO!!

As you all know, we have wildlife all around us but the most prominent for us are the ravens. Raven couple #1, Jack and Liz, left a year or so ago and then the two newbies moved in. They are pretty young, need some learning and experience but, just as important, they need to grow….physically. They came to us like thin, small teens and we are starting to see them ‘fill out’ a bit. Ol’ Jack was huge. Liz remained slim but she was long and slim and so the two of them filled some significant air space. And they had attitude! The newbies don’t really have much presence and it is weirdly evident in the role or status they lack or enjoy depending on the circumstances.

Jack and Liz swaggered around walking into a crowd of sea-gulls as if they owned the place and the gulls would part like the Red Sea and immediately acknowledge Jack’s rule. They were all polite and deferential to both Jack and Liz but they were actually afraid of Jack. Today, those same sea-gulls harass the newbies and steal their food. The new ravens just don’t have the same standing.

Things are slowly changing…. This past week, the ravens and the gulls have upped their aggressions on each other and it seems like the ravens are starting to make their beaks known. The skirmishes are still relatively benign but the ravens are now acting the equal of the gulls and, remember, there are always more gulls so the Newbie twosome are asserting their position outnumbered. It is no coincidence that they are also appearing a smidge bigger these days.

Recently the Newbies went nuts on an owl. We rarely see owls out here but the other day a very large horned owl was sitting almost invisibly in a tree. But he was visible enough to the ravens and they went after the owl as if he were the devil himself! Holeee…

The owl handled it all very well. Like the eagles, he basically just ignored the ravens but, to be more accurate, he also did not take to the air. Instead, he stood with his back to a tree trunk and simply owl-eyed their ongoing and aggressive antics. That went on long enough for us to ‘oooh’ and ‘aaaah’ and also to remember our camera.

Can you see the owl?

As for the DFO….those fine fellows in uniform on the half-million dollar boat I mentioned the other day? They paid us a visit back then and informed us that the rules re prawning have changed and that they were up in this neck of the woods confiscating offender’s traps. Sorta like seagulls on weaker birds. Classic stupid DFO. We told them we’d warn the locals of the rule change. The other day we went up to get the visiting doctor and take him back to the other island to his vehicle. But, as we left the island, I saw a boat way out there and thought I’d better warn them of the patrolling DFO and the new rule. So, off we went only to discover it was, in fact, the DFO boat I was going to warn. We said hello as they came out of their cabin to greet us – likely wondering what were doing. “Well, guys, your boat is so stealthy we didn’t know it was you until we got here. But, basically, we are here to warn you about you!”

They laughed. We went about our doctor-taxi effort but, after we dropped him at the community dock, we noticed that the DFO vessel was heading off station. They came up, floated about (same four crew) for awhile and then when ‘outed’, decided that they may as well go home.

We like to think we asserted our territory and we chased ’em off. Caw, caw!

I was wrong!

As you know, I saw the Capitol riot as more of an accident of somewhat predictable circumstance. For the actual mob participants, it was just a confluence in madness erupting almost spontaneously and, generally, just a very messy political rally made bad by a few rotten apples. I attributed to them the desire for Selfie-based fame on You-Tube and social media as much as anything else. I did not attribute insurrection or rebellion except on, perhaps, a few individuals accidentally, circumstantially acting together ‘in-the-moment’. I did NOT see a plan. I did NOT see organization and, in fact, I did NOT see a clearly defined mission or goal for the mob at all. In fact, I saw it much as many dumb Bubbas who were there claiming. “Hey, I was just there to rally for Trump. I did not charge, destroy or hurt anything or anybody.”

Fiona Hill of Politico has a different point of view and I think she is right. Here it is:


For those not willing to read the article: Hill contends that the riot was simply one of many steps taken by Trump over the years aimed entirely at insurrection. She outlines why the riot was ‘just a step’ along a planned and strategic assault on US Democracy. I may be right about the number of idiots that were manipulated and I may even be right that it was more of a circumstantial event than a truly subversive one but I am wrong in inferring/implying it was all an accident of Selfie-ism or just a one-off event. I even said it was NOT a step in the Art of War tradition.

Well, that part was definitely wrong. It seems it was, indeed, a planned step. Maybe not the puppet-monkeys running around with horns on their head but it was quite clearly part of a despot’s attempt at a coup. Trump planned all that! I honestly didn’t think he had the brains.

Hill thinks he does. Now, after reading her, so do I.

The real lesson: do not get your opinions from social media idiots like me.

PS. Turns out I was wrong (as stated above)…..and I was right! First off: from the latest news reports, there WAS more organization than I had previously thought. On the other hand, some ‘military experts’ have stated that those in the main showed no military training and those who were all camo’d up and looking good for the camera only showed they knew nothing of real tactical skills, training or even understanding. Conclusion/speculation? The vast majority were YOU-TUBE wannabes and selfie-addicts but the riot dynamics was planned by GOP ‘enablers’ and TRUMP-ists to look as if it ‘organically happened’.

I hate……

….fishing. I like fish. I like boats. And I like catching fish and then eating them but, well, the fishing part is pretty boring for me. It’s like watching TV but not turning it on…kinda hoping it turns itself on…..ya know? So, it stands to reason that I rarely fish. I figure maybe twice a year. For ten minutes. Fifteen tops.

But that anti-fishing, pro-eating intro is just the ‘set-up’…..the story is:

Once again the recent storms sent a gush of water down our stream and, in that deluge, the pick-up pipe clogged up again. We have found that the most efficient way of dealing with that is that I drive Sal in, she gets out on the rocks and goes up the hill, does the work, and then comes down and I pick her up on another set of rocks on the other side of our bay. Total elapsed time is between 30 and 40 minutes. If she takes her own boat in and has to tie it up and all that, the chore is 60+ minutes and much more difficult.

After we discovered the best way to do it, I felt that 30 to 40 minutes was just NOT enough time to do anything useful while she was doing the clean-out. So, I grabbed a rod and dipped a hook off our point. I’d do that for a while (ten minutes) and then go back and pick her up.

Which is precisely what transpired last Thursday. She worked. I fished. Then she called for an extraction. As we were leaving the bay, I saw a boat coming in our direction. That is weird. Rarely does anyone come into our bay and there was no one living nearby but us. I said to Sal, “Pull in the rod and lay it on the floor.”

Our area is closed to fin-fishing. And I know that. I was cheating. I do not feel too guilty because I never catch anything and I have a license and it is kinda like ‘my bay’. But I am guilty. I know that. My rationale would not stand up in a court so I partially hid the rod. Glad I did.

As we pulled into our dock, the boat came up to us. It bristled with antennas and fancy equipment. It was impressive. Onboard the Fisheries Patrol boat were four crew all kitted up with all sorts of standard issue crap. We were hailed by a smiling fellow who asked, “Got any fish?”

“Nope”. Now that was the truth. No lies. But no extra words either. I had been fishing but that was NOT the question.

“So, what were you doing in the bay?”

I began to feel my anti-authoritarian inclination begin to rise in me like black bile. But Sal answered nicely. “We live here. We get our water from the stream in the bay. The pipe was clogged so I went in to unclog it. And that is my story.”

I could not help myself and added, “And it is a good story, don’t you fellows think?”

To their credit, they laughed. But they also looked in our boat the best that they could. They did not get too close. They were being careful with their new boat. The vessel is easily a $500,000, fully fitted out, twin 300hp Yamaha powered aluminum and inflatable tubed beauty. It was close to 30 feet in length.

“You guys look a little understaffed for this kind of work.”

They laughed. “We just wanted a ride on the new boat!

Normally, we would only see two crew in full regalia. That day we enjoyed well over $500,000 in crew (annualized) riding around in a $500,000 boat watching out for a guy in a 17′ foot boat in January catching a fish. I dunno….seems like ‘overkill’ to me.

They explained that the were policing illegal prawning in the area but it was my opinion that prawning was legal and I asked about that. “Well, it was legal but DFO has closed it recently. We had to confiscate four traps today.” They showed off their seized contraband. They were proud. The four traps were the equivalent of half a shopping buggy at Save-On.

” I am sure few locals know of the change in the rules. We will tell them by writing that up in our local paper. When is it open again?”

“April 1st. Gotta protect the females-with-eggs you know.”

Firstly, no one keeps females with eggs. Secondly, it is the commercial fishery that is decimating the prawn fishery. Some boats set as many as 600 traps (large) and they set and pull two or even three times a day. Multiply that by at least three big boats and the picture is clear. NOT LOCALS. Thirdly, there is never a DFO fishery patrol boat when you need one. Some poor, local guy drops two or four traps now and then. Sal and I drop 4 – 8 traps for two or three days a year, get 25 pounds and let the rest of the prawns keep fresh in the sea. We and the locals are not the problem. But we and the locals are the ones hassled.

Am I angry? No. Not in the least. Like most things, I just find it all so stupid. Confiscating ‘recreational’ traps in January is simply targeting the wrong segment at the wrong time. They will only get a local catching dinner. They know that. Close the commercial fishery or stop sales to Japan and China or sink $1M a year into a prawn hatchery or something constructive and positive and the problem is solved. Prosecute, persecute, alienate, anger and steal from ‘the people’ and you only make the problem worse.

OK, I am little ticked.

An observation…..(maybe a tangent)

Preamble: apologies. I have to at least ‘comment’ on a bit of the Capitol Building incident. I know that at least four of my seven readers prefer squirrel and raven stories or even Sally and me stories but some ‘news’ items need to be acknowledged. I will go back to being eclectic, varied, weird and personal later on but this is just another one of those times…….

Dumb Bubbas in camo and wearing red hats backwards storming the Capitol building is NOT really news. They’ve already ‘been there and done that‘ this year alone in Michigan and Oregon and other ‘Merican ‘sacred’ places like Albuquerque and Charlottesville. There are too many incidents of such mob-stupidity in the US to recall them all.

Timothy McVeigh got that sick hair-ball rolling at a modern pace back in 1995 in Oklahoma City. And silly militias all over the damned States do that kind of thing on smaller and more local scales all the time. Violence is kinda part of the ‘Merican culture. It is sick. It is ugly. And, in some ho-hum kinda way it is still news but it is no longer SHOCKING news. Not anymore. Any thinking person could have predicted January 6th especially when the Trumps publicly promoted that kind of thing all through Trump’s presidency. It was not so much news as it was the inevitable result of Trumpism. And it will not be the last.

As my readers know, I am no fan of Trump and I deplore the deplorables. And I have no idea how Guiliani has kept his license to malpractice law for so long. These Trumper-guys seem to suffer from some kind of common mutant strain of extreme self-humiliating idiocy and the disease is spreading like Covid. It is Darwinian in it’s self-harm but, odlly, I do not see it as revolutionary.

And that is the point. What we witnessed was the manifestation of a social illness, not a revolution. And so we have to be real when we talk about about the ‘insurrection’. It really wasn’t…..

There were thousands of people there and only a hundred or so ‘invaded’. The police were sensible and controlled in the beginning but also weak, ineffective and seemingly without any real leadership. Some were even sympathetic and ‘onside’ with the demonstrators (symptomatic of cultural dysfunction). Fact: there are 32 separate law enforcement agencies in DC. They didn’t plan. They didn’t coordinate. They didn’t communicate. They failed catastrophically. Stupid-in-uniform is also a uniquely American characteristic.

To my mind, the Capitol riot was more of an accident primed to happen than it was a revolution or even a manifestation of resistance to government.

It was something else…..an ‘illness’ of something else….mental/cultural health?

You see, to me, it showed up more like a Hollywood casting call! The thing that amazed me mostly were the number of ‘invaders’ filming and taking selfies! These were NOT revolutionaries, these were wannabe You-Tube and Facebook stars! They were there, not so much to burn and raze the capital, but rather to ‘be seen’ and ‘gain’ celebrity. What I witnessed mostly was the emergence of pathetic but aspiring reality TV stars. They are classic deplorables but most of those in the building were just self-absorbed and were playing the role for the cameras. The scene called for chaos and they mostly just acted the part.

I am not, however, defending them in the least. One cannot defend uber-stupid. Acting like a revolutionary requires behaviour like a real revolutionary. I am just noting the incredible number of camouflaged, tatted-up, jack-booted idiots going into so-called battle with phone cameras glued to their faces. The US is corrupt in so many ways and too many to list and detail in this post. But social media has created a new category of dysfunctional fool, the many who suffer from the ‘look-at-me-and-give-me-likes‘ syndrome. Mini narcissists in thrall to their Orange leader.

That was what was on display three days ago, not revolution.

This ‘spectacle’ was all actually quite fitting for these times and should be expected. Some giant-sized imbecile who cannot pass by a mirror or a camera without posing is the leader-of-choice for a whole bunch of Camo-wearing (another look-at-me sign), flag-waving, ‘branding-oriented’, celebrity wannabes. The Capitol building riot was more of a sound stage ‘audition’ for being the next-alt-celebrity than it was a platform for a true revolutionary.

Look at Jake Angeli (he of the Viking headdress) and ‘envelope stealer’, Richard Barnett. They are true idiot-patriots who didn’t seem like overturning the government was their prime objective at all. Not to me, anyway. Being ‘seen’ was their mission. Being photographed was their goal. Getting known was the real objective. Celebrity is what they wanted, not a new form of governance. They made no grand statements. They had no manifesto.

They had cameras.

Well, I could be wrong about all that. I am sure a few were serious insurrectionists (less than a dozen). There are, however, a lot of Americans who seem to prefer tyranny over democracy and cult over culture. They like guns and violence and ugly over beauty, peace and cooperation. They prefer celebrity over substance, wealth over health and stupid over intelligence. They are truly the dumb, deplorable Bubbas. Still, I could not help but see only a little, tiny bit of revolutionary fervor and a whole lot of narcissistic posturing and preening on the 6th of January, 2021.

And that will be sustained and nurtured by the similarly self-absorbed society as a whole. I am sure the ‘Mericans will turn the rhetoric up into a ‘historic day of infamy in our blah, blah, blah…’

Why? Because that makes for good TV (and You-Tube).

Sally and me

We’ve been together for over fifty years as of the end of February. It has been great for me. I would sign up for another fifty in a heartbeat. Sal said she’s mulling it over, considering her options…….

I can think of no one possibly being a better partner than her but we have our quirks, our wrinkles, our differences. Well, to put it more bluntly: she’s a nut! But she is a loveable nut. And gorgeous. Plus she seems to ‘manage’ me and ‘deal’ with me in such a charming manner.

Still, we have our conflicts. Dishes is the big one (pretty much the only one). When we first came together, I said, “I do not do dishes. I have done way too many dishes in my life and the only line in the sand I bring to this relationship is that I do NOT do dishes. To be fair, I will buy new dishes every week; I will eat off dirty dishes; I will use paper plates; I will eat straight out of the pots and pans but – and let me make this perfectly clear – I do not do dishes!”

I was doing dishes within the first week. She is hard to say no to.

So, we’ve each been doing dishes for fifty years and, while she has done more of them, I have done tons more than I signed on for and I still manifest subtle jabs of resistance to this day. But, well, resistance is futile. I have been washed, rinsed and assimilated. We take turns at it virtually ‘every other day’ on dishes.

You guessed it: no machine dish washer living off the grid.

But we were NOT strictly scheduled into the every-other-day routine and some days I went three straight or she did. We couldn’t keep track. Of course, Sal, being like the Chinese water torture (somehow still charming, tho) she can be, kept trying to formalize it. “Sweetie, dishes…your turn. I did ’em last night.”

I have learned that little observation-fact-conclusion statements like that one have completely reconfigured my thinking, my life and my perspective. I am being subtly roped in, hog-tied and left at the sink so gently and with ‘love’, it is maddening. And hypnotizing. Did I mention the little touch on my arm accompanied by a heart-melting smile when she says things like that? Turns out I am made of putty – Silly putty, actually – and often found wrapped around her little fingers. Wooed into ever increasing domesticity by a charming, beautiful, psychopathic genius. I am helpless. I feel doomed.

I try to resist.

“OK, here’s the deal. I will do the dishes. Damn, damn, damn. But you still have to touch my arm and smile, OK?. No touch-and-smile is a deal-breaker. Got it?”

“Of course, Sweetie. You are so manly and cute when you put your foot down.” And she smiled and touched my arm. It was like looking Itsy-bitsy spider right in the eye. And I was being comforted by her web!

“But”, I said, thinking quickly, “I’ll do the even days. You do the odd. In that way, we can keep track. Odd-even, odd-even. OK?”

“Of course, Sweetie…deal”. I swore I heard a little cackle slip from her lips but I got the smile and the arm-touch and things kinda blur for me when that happens.

Still, I was smiling a bit. A bit too much, I guess. And the spider-woman was not amused. ‘Why would he be smilin’ like that?’

I had cheated her out of an extra week of dishes! On a leap year, it is eight days! Seven months end in 31 days (31 is an odd number) with the next day being the first of the month and it, too, is an odd number. I laughed out loud. Perhaps a bit maniacally…….

“WHAT!!!!! Why are you laughing????

I explained my Machiavellian plot. She did not take it well. Her lips became a hard line. The rosy cheeks went dark. Veins rippled in her forearms. There was a palpable volcanic presence suddenly in the room. I backed away. Slowly.

We may be great partners but we are different people. She’s sweet, beautiful, noble and full of grace. I am slugs and snails and puppy-dog tails. With slime on top. But we at least now kinda ‘share’ doin’ the dishes….ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah

Thar she blows!

If you live up the coast and especially if you live ‘on the water’, you need a boat. If you have a boat, you pretty much need a dock. 70% of residents have docks, 20% use community docks and 5 or 10% use ‘lines’, anchors and floats and then they just make-do. Virtually no one has a boat totally exposed to the prevailing winds (SE) altho a few boats temporarily at anchor might make the mistake of anchoring in that direction and then, when there is a major storm, they either move the boat or just worry the whole time.

So, from that paragraph just written above, you’d think that most people can relax in a major storm. NOT SO!!

Of the aforementioned 70% barely 5% have so-called legal docks. Most folks have temporary docks (which makes them legal) but the definition of temporary is the lack of pilings, dolphins or other fixed elements that keep the docks in place securely. And safely. The vast majority have docks that are really just large floats. Those floats may be anchored and tied with lines-to-shore but they do not have fixed-point pilings or dolphins. When a major storm hits, these dock/floats move around. A lot!!!

Today, a lot of temporary docks all up and down the coast are leaping, jumping and dancing wildly.

Our neighbour’s dock (the one on which we rely for our boats) is leaping like Mikhail Baryshnikov on a mechanical bull. It is crazy wild over there. We should know – we just came back from checking on it. Holeeee!!!

Because the float is essentially just anchored, the lines get tight and get slack as the wind and seas change from minute to minute. The ramp which ties the float to the land is swinging fifteen feet to the North on a strong gust and then ‘bounces back’ an equal amount South when the wind abates. Our ramp was describing 30 foot plus arcs down there.

When the ramp is going left and right like a windshield wiper (albeit a lot slower), that means that the dock way out at the end is moving even more so. And, while everything is moving sideways, it is also leaping up and down. One minute you can see an anchor line get taught and the next you can see that line disappear under the water while the line on the opposite side is as tight as a bow string. What actually keeps all this ‘flotilla’ together is, of course, just wet wood, ropes and cables. Some ropes are new and strong (but small) and others are old and thick (salvaged hawsers) but they have weight and the weight dampens the shock.

If you want to dampen the shock on the lines properly, you put kellets half way down the line. A kellet is a weight and at least 30 pounds is ideal. Flat sheet steel is even better (heavy and with surface resistance). They make the line just that much heavier and, if used with a ‘bottom’ anchor, it also improves the pull-angle. Kellets are good and we have them on the critical lines.

The true weakness in the ‘temporary float’ system is that the dock-float is usually made of wood and the lines are tied to wooden cleats and/or frames. The ropes can take a lot more force than can the actual wooden float unless it is very well engineered and even then….

The advantage of temporary dock floats is that you do not need a permit (a bureaucratic process designed and administered by demons and cretins), it is cheaper to install and the property taxes don’t include them as an improvement. Why? Because in concept the float is just a different kind of flat-boat at anchor. And then smaller boats tie up to it. Boats are not considered improvements.

The disadvantage is that it is just not as safe. In fact, our dock comes apart every year at some point or another. At least once. The rope breaks, the wood comes away, the anchor moves, the lines somehow get tighter and looser. Temporary dock/floats are permanent work. But the upside is the demons and cretins are happy.

Today, we are experiencing a real test of our dock/float system but it seems to be holding. Rather well, actually. Sal and I, on the other hand, returned to the warmth of our wood stove after half an hour of being diligent about checking on it but we (poor babies) got kinda wet and cold. A half hour of that was enough!


It is January 2, 2021 and I am looking forward to the new year. Normally, New Year is just another date on the calendar for me. Just a number. But 2020 was so bad in so many ways, I am really looking for any signs of renewal and change in 2021. Like many, I am hoping that the new set of numbers means something more than just a new set of numbers.

We’ll see.

It howled again last night. Wind, rain, choppy seas. Howling courtesy of our wind turbine (with a gusty Southeaster on bass and a roiling sea on percussion). Sal woke up at 3:00. I was wide awake at 5:00. We can handle storm. We have a harder time with turbine. The turbine is a maniacal banshee!

Typically wind-turbines have an ‘overspeed’ brake so that the blades do not go so fast the insides come apart. The brake is centrifugal so it only comes on when the wind is really high (35 mph plus). The brake is noisy. Sounds like a big dog barking. Our turbine barked every five or ten minutes for five seconds or so each time – for hours. I asked Sal if I should throw a rope over it or did she want to go up the tower. “Neither. Use the shotgun and as many shells as you need.”

As you can guess, she was a bit less sweet and cheery this morning. Still, the shotgun idea had crossed my mind. But the wind is now down and the turbine can be ignored. So…..

I went down to the dock this morning to check everything. It was all good. The boat was pretty full of water (the auto bilge pump didn’t kick on, tho). They rarely do. Rule dominates the bilge pump market and 20% of their pumps just do not work. Pure crap right out of the box. Of the other 80%, they have a limited functioning lifespan – maybe a couple of years – and the bottom line is nobody trusts their bilge pumps. We have two of them to increase our chances of one of them working when we need it to. One is a ‘turn on the pump’ manually kind and the other is a self starting automatic (hah!). We check ’em both every day.

This new year is really hard to predict. Trump will likely persist somewhat but so long as it diminishes, it could be entertaining to watch all the failing that will ensue. I will never get sick of seeing Trump fail. Any Trump getting punched in the face will do (save for Baron – he may be OK). On the other hand, I do not want to see Trump sr. rise far enough to fail as epically as this last time but he does seem to have a Dorian Gray kinda life so he may rise again like the flying orange pig he is. They have a name for his special kind of narcissism: Dorian Gray Syndrome.

A few things portend, tho. I have been witnessing mini-docs (You-Tube) on homelessness in LA and San Francisco. It’s crazy! There are 70,000 homeless in Manilla. There are 50,000 homeless in Mumbai. And there are 36,000 homeless in Los Angeles, the city of angels! There are officially 3000 in Vancouver and 1500 in Victoria (I think more). Projecting from all of that is my rough guess that there are probably close to a million homeless in N. America. You know…the first world? Homelessness in LA is up 70% in the last couple of years. Conclusion: the days of just crazy bag-ladies with shopping carts are over and a new sub-group of uber-marginal untouchables is emerging. Some streets in LA are littered end to end with tents and tarps. With the odd limp body scattered here and there for colour…..

Ordinary life-job-work-lifestyle is also changing. So is ‘life’ outside of work and home – restaurants and social venues are closing. Movie houses are empty. Bars, gyms, concerts et al are mothballed. Our world is going to change and it already has to a large extent. And I do not see the innovative ‘answers’ or entrepreneurial responses to any of that…not yet, anyway. We may just have a dystopian period to live through and 2021 will not see the changes we need. Maybe not even by 2022….

Still, I am feeling optimistic but I can only see one reason why…it is the beginning of a new year, we have a new number, and I am really hoping it indicates something substantially ‘new’ is coming.

Vexed, I am.

Mortgage rates are at record lows. Five year fixed is as low as 1.5% (HSBC) and my guess is, that with a good down payment and a good credit rating, it would be easy to borrow even as much as $1,000,000 (previously an unheard of amount for ‘worker-bees’) from the Big three for under 2%. In whacked-theory, one can borrow their way to millionaire status. (Well, I guess it is not all-that-whacked a theory since the Grifting Trumps have ‘borrowed’ and defaulted their way to billionaire status.)

The economy is on the ropes in some ways (hospitality, travel, retail) but, in others, it has never been better (delivery services, post, net-based businesses) The US economy ‘grew’ by 38% on an annualized basis in the 3rd quarter (admittedly, it was down 33% in the second quarter so, overall, it is stable at about a 4% annualized growth). But what a wild swing! Housing prices in most of Canada’s markets are past the balloon stage and now into a new un-reality stage.

And that is showing up rurally, too. I.e. Rents in Nelson for a modest 2-bedroom home are $2500 (that is relevant because $2500 a month pays off a purchase price of approximately $750,000 which means some little rented bungalow in Nelson might fetch $750K on the market). And that madness is playing out in all the small desirable towns especially on Vancouver Island. Commercial sites in Victoria are setting new records (altho those sites are generally multiple family residential sites). Put more bluntly, we have a lopsided economy and that makes for very weird analysis and crazy projections.

Our national unemployment rate is still averaging around 6% and even touched 13% for awhile. Covid is raging all over the place. The government is spending like a drunken sailor and, of course, the country’s debt has never been greater. And yet…the Canadian loony is up a bit against the US dollar which is oddly (to me) also considered strong.

The inflation rate is projected to be modest at 1.5% (approx) but real life suggests more like 5% (lately even more). If one adds in the housing index (which they do not always do) and it is higher.

Carnival Cruiselines just launched the biggest cruise ship ever and Boeing has re-debuted their new no-crash 737 max. Duh…….??? Is anyone traveling still?

And on and on and on and on……..I won’t bore you anymore than usual with any more facts….the point is: all the ‘indicators’ are acting counter-intuitively and contrary to previous economic times. The ‘message’ is mixed and, for dummies like me, confusing. I DO NOT GET IT.

Shouldn’t gold have gone through the roof? Shouldn’t real estate be stable at best and, commercial values (retail space) fall? Shouldn’t the Canadian dollar also be falling against say the Euro or even the US dollar? Shouldn’t the price of fuel drop? Why are luxury yachts and boats so expensive (yachts have always been the canary in the economic coal-mine)? Why is the US stock market up? Is it simply the low cost of borrowing? Is it a not-as-yet-recognized new stay-at-home economy driving all this? How come Ali-Express is 3 – 6 months behind in shipping? Have people abandoned previous financial goals and, if they can, they are simply ‘getting out’ to small towns?

Maybe the biggest question I have is why is Netflix so boring lately?

Eccentric Heroes

I have more than just a few friends out here. It’s a great community. But, I have to acknowledge, they are all a smidge odd. Which is OK, I like ‘odd’. Odd is good. In fact, odd is the more sane adjective applicable to many of my regional OTG friends.

Next up the descriptive ladder would be quirky and I like quirky, too. Sal is a big fan of quirky but knowing Sal as I do, that only makes sense. She was born in England and quirky is a bona fide industry over there. Sally is pretty quirky by Canadian metrics but barely registers on the British Quirky Standard (BQS). She claims her BQS rating is VSG (‘very stable genius’) so that kind of says it all right there.

After quirky we move up to eccentric and then, after eccentric, we get crazy and the last category of those heavily medicated but still living freely amongst the rest of us is mad-as-a-hatter or the more colloquial, ‘Whacked’. We have ’em all out here and they are all accepted if not frequently embraced (especially recently, what with Covid and all). This is a colourful (read: goofy) community and I am a big fan.

But the majority of the ‘local colour’ are also fiercely independent. Sometimes acting so independent in so many ways just adds to the Canadian quirky (CQS) rating. An Oddfellow can rise to the quirky or even eccentric fellow status when they carry independence to an extreme. And they mostly all do.

One fabulous fellow walked into the forest a decade or so ago with a chainsaw and some hand-tools and, a year or so later, launched his 45 foot hand-hewn, wooden sailboat. With mast. Then he launched it. Of course, you can’t make your own engine from the forest so his ‘yacht’ doesn’t have an engine. C’mon, that is not only odd, independent and genius, it is very, very unique.

Last week a friend-of-the-same-feather left for points south. I took his boat to our neighbour’s dock so that it could be watched while he was gone. Then yesterday he called and asked to be picked up so that he could go home. He had visited family enough and wanted back. I picked him up and took him to his boat. He needs that smaller boat to ‘zip up’ the coast 30 or so miles to get to his bigger boat that he had left at anchor in a remote bay. He had some groceries, a small pack and his best buddy, his dog. But he was moving gingerly.

“OK, dawg?”

“Yup. Jus’ a little sore.” Given that he, too, is almost a septuagenarian and still working physically regular shifts out in the boondocks, being a bit sore did not register with me as unusual. We are all a little sore out here. But then it came out. While visiting family he had undergone major surgery. He had all-too fresh wounds and bandages and stitches and the whole nine-yards. Ninety-nine percent of us would have spent a few weeks recuperating. I would have stretched it to a year!

So, here was this guy, all alone but for his dog, heading off to a remote bay miles from anywhere. It was raining, it was cold, the wind was up and he was wounded. Barely a peep out of him. He didn’t linger because the days are short and dusk was looming. He had miles of choppy seas to cover. Sal gave him some Xmas goodies and off he went. When he eventually got to his larger vessel, the boat was NOT where it was supposed to be – it had drifted a bit – so he pulled up the chain and the anchor and re-set it. In the dark. Alone. Post-op.

Barely a peep (which makes sense – there was no one there to hear one).

But this is where we add a little more colourful independence to the story: just before he came down to leave his small boat with us, he was setting up the anchoring system for the big boat and, when doing so, he fell and tumbled down some rocks and cut, banged and scratched himself all to hell. He had a bit more trouble doing the final part of the anchoring because his right arm wouldn’t go up past his chest. And, of course, there was all the bleeding and he was drenched. If he grabs the arm with his left hand and throws it up, he can hold it up there to do what he needs to do but lifting it under his own power is impossible. I suspect that he must have hit his head, too. Probably many, many times….repeatedly….over decades……

That is the only explanation…..

Heroic? I guess not by Hollywood standards. And no dogs, children or females were rescued in the scenes described above but this is a man who, in modern times, deals with what the world throws at him and does it rather nobly if not heroically. Never asks for a thing. Independent in the extreme.

Honestly? I do not know how you see it, but I am impressed all to hell.

Santa Claws?

For the most part, I describe living out here in quasi-realistic, honest terms. There is a bit of ‘idyllic’ inserted now and then to allow for the OTG booster I am, too. Basically, I tell the truth and just maybe not share all the little ‘irritations’ of life off the grid. That is not because I am a Rebecca-of-Sunnybrook-type, I am not. It is just that there are NOT THAT MANY irritations. But there are some. My highline snapped a couple of weeks ago and I have to repair it but the lower anchor point is underwater (tides) during the day so I have to postpone that and, for a grouchy guy, postponement is frustrating. And so it goes. Freezing pipes, engines not starting, running out of something….little issues that, in summer, do not even add up but, in winter….well, winter can be a bit vexing all by itself, too.

We just came back from five days in Victoria. Went to see a dentist and visit briefly with family. Of course, when in town, one also shops a bit. So, all in all, five days of hell-on-wheels (our Pathfinder). I can’t believe how much time in my life I wasted in traffic. After the dentist, it was snowing heavily and Sal and I were hungry and so we stopped in a funky li’l cafe for a soft lunch and….well, I can’t believe how much of my life I wasted on waiting for a sandwich in funky cafes, either. From Costco to Pagliacci’s, it all seemed like moving wet cement uphill.

However, none of that is the blog-story today. Today is about a Santa imposter. I took our woodstove heater door off before we left to go South. Had to. I broke the glass in the door a few days prior and one needs one’s woodstove working full-tilt up here in the winter. I dropped it off at the wood-stove-repair guy.

When I took off the door a small blast of cold air came down the chimney so I folded two thick layers of cardboard and duct-taped that faux-door over the opening to keep drafts from blowing ash into the house while we were away.

When we came home, it was getting on and we had a ton of crap to unload. So, we got on it but first I turned on the water system and Sal started the wood stove. The house temperature was 42 degrees F, 5 degrees C. It was cold! as we worked to put stuff away, the fire started to raise the temp but five hours and a lot of wood later, we were still only at 60 degrees and still bundled up.

“Hey! Sweetie! I think we had an earthquake while we were gone. There are a lot of little items that have fallen to the floor”. We looked around and concluded that it must have been an earthquake but there was also a hint here and there that it may have been a critter. Mice would have done more damage and left too much irrefutable evidence. NOT mice.

But, what?

I went out to start the genset and, when I came in, I saw our intruder looking at me from under the sideboard in the dining area. It was a big, beautiful shiny, healthy squirrel. I couldn’t resist, “Hey, Sal! Look, a squirrel!”

Sal is very brave in spirit and/or when taking life-threatening challenges at sea. But, in the presence of small, wild, mammals in the house, she is girlishly hysterical. When the shrieking died down (and the noise froze the squirrel in it’s tracks and she/he just sat there wide-eyed, looking at Sal and, as you can guess, that just raised the screaming an octave or two), we got to chasing the little bastard. He first ran around the lower floor and so did we. Then he ran up stairs and I followed. Sal stayed down to ‘hold the fort’. I opened the back door (mid-landing on the stairs) for his easy departure but felt obliged to go upstairs and herd him towards it. After a comedic ten minutes or so, our guy made a bee-line towards the back door. Just as he was about to exit, he spun 180 degrees and headed down the stairs straight at Sal (armed only with a pillow and a cushion, she was no match for the squirrel and emergency shrieking was once again invoked). Sal went one way, the squirrel sauntered past her and returned to the living room. And the chase was on again.

Over the next 30 minutes or so, the squirrel clung to window screens, ran along elevated ledges, hid under furniture and basically covered every square foot of the downstairs. He was accompanied by the sounds of two people chasing him with flashlights and pillows and yelling ridiculous orders at one another (including the squirrel). It was mayhem.

I had also opened a window which ‘Santa’ had run past at least two times but, on his third and final circuit of the living room, he saw the open off-ramp in it and took off. “Holeee!!! What a squirrel! What a couple of nuts!”

Sal still looked a bit unnerved. “But how did he get in? What the hell?”

It was then I noticed the discarded cardboard door. There was chewed hole in it. I looked carefully and the hole had been chewed through from the inside out. The damn guy had come down a virtually vertical 16 foot long, sooty, steel-pipe chimney after first gaining entry by climbing up a 30 degree steel roof and a four foot SS insulated chimney. He had gummy bears for feet! But he must have fallen some of that distance and then found himself on top of the inner part of the stove having landed on the (now cold) heat retention baffle. Had the fire being burning, he would have been a roasted squirrel. Best laid plans of mice and men are not as good as those of squirrels, it seems. He did NOT go agly. “Hmmmmm, now that I am covered in soot and everything is pitch black, I will simply start chewing on whatever is chewable and see where that gets me.”

Welcome to Chez Cox.

Our squirrel, now named Santa Claws (Gumshoe to his friends of which there are none) fell down the chimney, ate through the two layers of cardboard and simply could not get back out until we came home to facilitate his departure. He knocked a few light, decorative items around in a fit of pique, tried a bit of over-ripe banana and basically spent much too much time rifling through our allegorical drawers.

Not a very traditional Xmas this year so far……….